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
Boston Red Sox 6 – Houston Astros 2
Weekends are tough, as all ballhawks know, but with the Red Sox in town, another dimension of toughness is applied. We made a late minute decision to attend this game, as the weather looked nice, plus why not?
We got there around 4:45 being the first in line, 15 minutes before the gates opened.
Now, for this game, I made the decision to go to right field instead of my normal spot in left, because after several games now, I’ve determined that the power hitters who can hit it to my spot (Correa, White, Altuve*), are already done by the time I get inside. *sigh*
It ended up paying off as I got a tossup from Tony Sipp, our first of the day but not before some “drama.” Now, I called to Tony for a ball and he tossed in my way, I was about 3 rows back in the section, and out of nowhere while in midair, an old man zoomed by and snatched it from me. I was like, “W. T. F.” It was clearly intended for me and the old man didn’t really give a hoot giving me a shrug. Unbelievable. Thankfully, Tony saw this and hooked me up. I pulled the ball out of my glove and saw this.
Unfortunately, things went DEAD after this snag. The Astros finished around 5:15 & and the whole duration of Red Sox was trash too. I was out of place for home runs, the players wouldn’t toss anything, too many kids, just a bad night. The only action was that my dad got a BP homer out in left, the 2nd of our day.
I went to go try for a pregame warm up ball near the 3rd base dugout, and even with the insane amount of people waiting there in the first row (for Ortiz’s autograph, of course), I managed to get a tossup from Travis Shaw, who threw it over everyone’s head. #3 of the day, right before the national anthem.
As for the game, we sat in our “normal” seats in foul territory around 3rd base, but there was no luck on this night. The Astros didn’t fare better either as they were really struggling against knuckleballer, Steven Wright.
Playing the dugouts in the last 3 innings didn’t help either as there wasn’t luck to be found. I tried going for an umpire ball at the end of the game, but just take a look at this.
There was about 10 kids stalking the entrance (WAY more than normal), and my chances were extremely slim. No way in hell to compete with them. Well, of course, I failed, and the Red Sox bullpen didn’t toss anything on their way back after their 6-2 win against the Astros. Ugh. Tough night, but hey, it is the Red Sox.
- 3 balls at this game.
- 15 baseballs in 4 games this season
- 55 straight games catching at least one ball
- Lifetime total; 435
- Attendance; 26,672
Kansas City Royals 4 – Houston Astros 2
A rainy day, no after-school baseball practice, and cheap tickets on StubHub equal what? Going to the game of course! With me being free, as compared to other days during my school baseball season, I was able to convince my dad to take me to the Astros game that day. We got there a bit before the gates opened at 5, and there was a pretty good line already. I headed to my usual spot in left-center as the Astros were wrapping up their BP.
Nothing at all came close, and Ken Giles decided to ignore my request for a ball, pretty much describes how my day was going so far. As for my dad, he ended up getting us on the board first, as he snagged a BP homer, but not before some pain and busting his ass on the way there. (He’s okay. Dad, if you’re reading this, please be careful so I don’t have to laugh at you anymore this season.) Enough said.
For Royals BP, I decided to dress for them, and head out to right field as well. Plenty of balls came close and I ended up snagging our 2nd ball of the day on a Eric Hosmer ball that landed in the seats, and I picked up. The Royals were pretty much dead too, as all their power hitters were in the first round and nothing was coming to right field, so I decided to go to their dugout to maybe get a ball as they were jogging off at the end of BP. Despite me waving my arms like crazy, and standing ten rows back to distinguish myself from the hoard of Royals fans cramming the first row for autographs, nothing was tossed to me. Just like two days earlier, I only had snagged 1 ball during BP. Here it is, but still, we had 2 combined for the day so far.
Pre-game didn’t fare any better, as all the balls were tossed to little kids, or attractive women behind the Royals dugout. I decided to sit in one of my favorite spots along 3rd base in hope for some foul balls the whole night. Good view, but those damn new LED lights were lowkey killing me.
It was a pretty good pitchers duel between Scott Feldman and Yordano Ventura through the first 5 innings before KC scored on an error and sac fly in the 6th, putting them up 2-0. Jose Altuve hit a Home Run in the bottom of the 6th, cutting the lead from 2-1, before Altuve once again got an RBI and tied the game in the 7th. It was getting late, and possibly looked like the game could go into extras. In the 8th, I decided to start playing the dugouts for a 3rd out ball, and I had a really good view when Ken Giles entered the game and gave up a 2-run home run by Salvador Perez to put the Royals up 4-2. Hmm, should’ve tossed me that ball? I had no luck with 3rd out balls despite people filing out after Ken gave up the home run. I decided to just wait at the umpire’s entrance/exit until the game ended, hopefully to get a ball there. My dad ended up joining me their and with their outstanding bullpen, the Royals locked up the win (sad face), 4-2. Surprisingly, compared to the Home Opener two days earlier, there was NO competition at the umpire’s tunnel. It was only me and my dad, which led to our polite request succeeding and both of us getting a ball from Mr. Cederstrom. We doubled our ball total for the day in 10 seconds. Way to turn around a day, and to get our first 2 game balls of the season.
STATS after this game:
- 4 balls at this game
- 12 balls in 3 games this season (average 3.00)
- 54 straight games catching at least one ball
- 2 games balls this season
- Lifetime Total: 432
- Attendance: 24,109.
Kansas City Royals 2 – Houston Astros 8
After months of anticipation for the baseball season to start on April 4th, I was estatic, but the thing that wasn’t exciting was that I still had to wait another week for the Astros’ home opener, which would be my first regular season game of the season. (Read here for the exhibition I had attended a few weeks earlier.) Baseball was officially back in Houston, and last year’s postseason run really pumped the city up. The Astros have resurrected from the 100 loss seasons. Demand for opening day tickets were through the roof, and I was pretty lucky enough to get some at all, I was just ready to get back to good ol’ Minute Maid Park.
The day of the game, I was a little worried, considering that the Astros hadn’t made an announcement about what time the gates would open, but I heard 4:30 from my friend at school who would be there, so I arranged accordingly for that time. I had baseball practice after-school until about 3:30, when I left early, and my dad picked me up from there, both ready to go. It takes about 25 minutes to get to the ballpark from our house, so if you think about it, I would get there around 30 minutes before the gates open, right? It wasn’t till then when I asked my dad in the car if he knew anything at all about what time they would open, and turns out that the Astros announced (while I was at practice) that the gates were going to open at 4, a whole 3 hours before gametime. Damn, damn, damn. I kinda freaked, considering that I was going to be late to claim my regular spot for BP in left-center, as all the people with “standing room only” tickets would rush to claim them, thus backfiring my whole plan for BP. I decided to shoot the Astros a tweet asking if they knew the BP schedule, and sure enough, they replied with this.
OK, I had time. we got there around 4:10 and thankfully there was a space in the area I like, and the Astros had not started BP yet. One thing that was VERY noticeable was that the Astros changed all the lights over the offseason to some new LED ones, as they were so gosh darn bright compared to the old ones, like wow.
Yeah, the filter kinda makes it hard to tell, but trust me. There wasn’t any action, until Colby Rasmus decided to scan the crowd and randomly toss a ball. That ball came right in my direction, as I flashed to Colby and I was literally the ONLY one in the surrounding area that had a glove. It was intended for me, but surely he overthrew it (it was a pretty far throw, I don’t blame him, I still love Colby very much) and it landed in the people behind me. Rough start, oh well at least 5 minutes later, I got Luke Gregerson to throw me the 1st ball snagged in Minute Maid Park this year.
Nice scuff there. That was all for Astros BP, as nothing really came close other than that. Now, I did bring my Royals gear with me, and I did plan to go to right field for their BP, but I decided to stay put, and not put it on. Why not? I’m really not sure. I was pretty satisfied with my one ball and not getting shut out, and I felt like I had a good spot right there for some home runs.Our 2nd ball of the day came on a BP home run out in the Crawford Boxes in left that my dad managed to win a scramble to it. Another standard.
As for me, BP was pretty much dead, I ended up snagging a ball thrown to me by a Royals coach. Seems pretty average, right? Well, the family standing next to me had a small child, around 1-2 years old, and they were pleading with me to give him the ball. Now, I generally don’t give ball away, but hey it was opening day, along with the face that I may have been intended for the kiddo anyway, so I ended up giving it to them. I can’t remember the amount of times they thanked me, it made me feel great, they even made me take a picture with the kid! Cool stuff, and I didn’t count the ball. Many ballhawks do that, but as of now, it’s not my style, I’m okay with my stats!
Now, I really only got one more chance for a ball during Royals BP, but it was a BP homer that I really botched. I don’t know how I missed it/didn’t catch it, but oh well let’s not talk about it. That was it, 2 balls during BP. I went to go meet up with some friends all over the ballpark, including meeting someone (!!!), and after all this, we decided to head up to our seats then.
Also exciting? The first pitches being thrown by Jeff Bagwell & Roger Clemens to Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, respectively, was awesome. I was ready for some Astros baseball.
I sat up there until the 8th when some of the seats had cleared out near the dugout in hopes of snagging a opening day commemorative from the umpire. To hell, with third out balls at this game. I ended up running into (again) a die-hard KC fan/ballhawker named, Leiming Tang. I had previously met him back at the postseason game last year (against the Royals) and it was nice to catch up with him and bitter sweetly tell him congrats on his team’s championship season last year.
The Astros ended up winning, 8-2 (yay!), but the home plate umpire, Adrian Johnson, ended up only giving one ball to a small kid who was dressed in Royals gear, while his father had on an Astros jersey with a large backpack containing autograph stuff. Damn. It was commemorative too, I clearly saw it. 😦 Oh well, overall I had a nice night, and it was nice to be back at Minute Maid Park again. 2016 is our year!
STATS after this game
- 2 balls at this game
- 8 baseballs in 2 games this season (4.00 average)
- 53 straight games catching at least one ball
- Lifetime Balls Total: 428
- Attendance: 43,332.
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
#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!
APRIL: 21 balls in 3 games
- Tuesday, April 14th VS A’s- 12 snagged
- Saturday, April 18th VS Angels- 3 snagged
- Thursday, April 30th VS Mariners- 6 snagged
In April, I knew after our first game, we were going to have a good year. We snagged 12, (breaking our single-game record on the first game of the year?!) therefore having the best average on mygameballs.com for two days, hah. Our second game, it was a crowded weekend game against the Angels, and it was 1965 throwback night. That was COOL, seeing the grounds crew in Astronaut suits (they did that in the Astrodome too) and the giveaway? Amazing. Snagged 3 that night. Our 3rd game, was a weeknight game against the Mariners, and it was gorgeous that night. Snagged 6.
MAY: 36 balls in 3 games
- Sunday, May 3rd VS Mariners- 2 snagged
- Tuesday, May 5th VS Rangers- 4 snagged
- Wednesday, May 13th VS Giants- 6 snagged
- Friday, May 15th VS Blue Jays- 11 snagged
- Saturday, May 16th VS Blue Jays- 4 snagged
- Friday, May 29th VS White Sox- 9 snagged
I ended up going to the last game of the 4 game series on that Sunday against the Mariners, but even with no BP, I snagged two. The next two games, (5/5 Cinco de Mayo against the Rangers, 5/13 against the Giants) I have very little/no recollection of them, except the fact that we snagged our 300th ball on the 4 ball night and 6 at the Giants game. Two days later, we went to a Friday night game in against the Blue Jays, in which everything was going right. We snagged 11 (our 2nd double digit game of the year.) and ended up going the next day too, and snagged 4. Our last game of May, was another one in which everything clicked, we snagged 9 that day, giving us a new record for most balls snagged in a month. The major thing though, was that I snagged a Jose Altuve Foul ball that day, and was included in my Top 5 Baseballs Snagged (So Far) blog post.
JUNE- 27 balls in 5 games
- Monday, June 1st VS Orioles- 5 snagged
- Friday, June 12th VS Mariners- 9 snagged
- Monday, June 15th VS Rockies- 3 snagged
- Thursday, June 25th VS Yankees- 2 snagged
- Monday, June 29th VS Royals- 8 snagged
The first game of the month was a BEAUTIFUL day. It was against the Orioles and I remember that their BP was awful. On the bright side, it was on this day that I met Erik Jabs, a fellow ballhawk who was in town, but we didn’t get a picture! Next time hopefully. The next game was a Friday night against the Mariners, and it was Carlos Correa’s home debut. What a night. He homered, and the Astros scored 8 runs in the first off “King” Felix Hernandez to knock him out of the game. Even better, we snagged 9 that day. (I also met the legendary mascot, Orbit. I love him.) Three days later, we tried to take advantage of the park as a tropical storm was coming towards Houston that night, and we thought that nobody would go, so naturally, we went to the game! Attendance was indeed low, but we only snagged 3. Rockies BP sucked. Our next game, was a game against the Yankees. Ballhawking nightmare. People all over the place, and honestly I thought I was going to be shutout, until the last 5 minutes, I snagged a BP homer on the fly. Only snagged 2 that day. 4 days later, in a game against the Royals (their fans travel well, that’s what a World Series appearance does) we made up for the sub-par last two games, by snagging 8. Nice month.
JULY- 17 balls in 4 games
- Friday, July 10th (Astros @ Rays, Tropicana Field)- 6 snagged
- Friday, July 17th VS Rangers- 5 snagged
- Wednesday, July 22nd VS Red Sox- 1 snagged
- Thursday, July 30th VS Angels- 5 snagged
A road trip to Florida (to go to Disney) also led to me asking to visit Tropicana Field, in which we did. Coincidentally, the Astros were in town! I blogged about it (my 1st post of 2015), but in summary; Turf was ugly, ballpark lacks a lot, the Astros lost (sad face), and we snagged 6. A week later back in Houston, in a game against the Rangers, we snagged 5. A few days later, the Red Sox were in town. I knew it would be tough, but I had to go. With attending that game, I have now seen ALL 30 TEAMS. I was lucky enough to snag 1 ball that day (a before the inning warm-up ball), as it was crowded, and got shutout in BP. The last game in the month that I attended, it was against the Angels. I don’t remember much about this game other than the fact that we snagged our 100th ball of the season.
AUGUST- 17 balls in 6 games
- Saturday, August 1st VS D-Backs- 1 Snagged
- Friday, August 14th VS Tigers- 3 Snagged
- Monday, August 17th VS Rays- 3 Snagged
- Thursday, August 20th VS Rays- 5 Snagged
- Sunday, August 23rd VS Dodgers- 1 Snagged
- Saturday, August 29th (Rangers VS Orioles, Globe Life Park)- 4 Snagged
What a slow month. The first game of this month was a Graig Biggio replica jersey giveaway day. OMG, the lines were bigger than I had thought that day. Plus, it was a Saturday, and it was crowded to the max, but I managed to snag 1 that day. The next games were rough. A crowded Friday night game against the Tigers, we only snagged 3, and we decided to go to a Monday night game against the Rays because tickets were CHEAP (no one wants to see the Rays), and the paid attendance ended up being only 16,256. We snagged 3 too on that day. We went back 3 days later for the last game of the 4-game series against the Rays, and fared better, snagging 5, but as for the game itself, Chris Archer threw a 1-hitter. Remarkably, the next day, the new acquire the Astros got from a trade, Mike Fiers, threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers. We ended up going to the last game of that series, a Sunday game, in which I snagged 1, keeping the streak alive. The next weekend, we took a trip to Arlington (2nd blog post of the season), in which we snagged 4.
SEPTEMBER- 22 balls in 4 games
- Tuesday, September 1st VS Mariners- 8 snagged
- Monday, September 21st VS Angels- 11 snagged
- Saturday, September 26th VS Rangers- 1 snagged
- Sunday, September 27th VS Rangers- 4 snagged
I thought I was in for a really good month, the Astros were leading the West on their way to the playoffs for the first time in ten years and the first game against the Mariners, we snagged 8, but the Astros blew the game (and their AL West lead that month). My next scheduled game then was supposed to be on Saturday, September 19th, when a ballhawk from Minnesota, Tony Voda, would be in town (it’s very rare for me to have ballhawkers from out of town come by, since Houston is far from the popular cities) and he wanted me to be on his podcast. It was a good date, and I had it on my schedule already, so why not? I was ready, but my body thought otherwise. A week before the game, I had some pain in my lower right abdominal, which ended up being appendicitis. I ended up had surgery, and despite pleas to my parents to go, I couldn’t attend. It really bummed me out, but I felt good when my tips went to good work when Tony snagged 9 that day (he would have had less if I were there, just saying) I’m sure we’ll meet someday though. 3 days after that game though, I semi-heartedly went to the Astros game against the Angels to ballhawk. I was basically un-mobile, as I couldn’t run as I was still recovering, but somehow, even by walking, I was at the right places, at the right times, and combined we snagged 11 that day. Even disabled, I’m still so good, hah. The next two games we went to were a few days later, part of a weekend series against the Rangers (also the last home regular season games of the year), and they were big because the Rangers were now leading the division, and we needed to win. Both days, there wasn’t BP, but we snagged 1 at the Saturday game, and 2 at the Sunday game, and the Astros won both those games (hell yeah). I remember after the last regular season game, I asked/told my dad, we’re gonna be back here right? We both agreed, and thankfully were right.
OCTOBER- 6 balls in 2 POSTSEASON games
- Sunday, October 11th VS Royals (Game 3 of ALDS)- 4 snagged
- Monday, October 12th VS Royals (Game 4 of ALDS)- 2 snagged
Even though the Rangers won the West, the Astros claimed the 2nd wild card spot, and beat the Yankees in the Wild Card game in New York, to advance. Postseason baseball was a fun, fun, fun blast. I went to both division series games here in Houston, and I really enjoyed myself. In Game 3, I snagged 4 baseballs, including a postseason ball. I blogged about it, which you can read if you haven’t already, HERE. Now, as for Game 4, it was fun too (for the 1st 7 innings, after that, oh no.) we snagged 2 baseballs, but that was overshadowed, because I will never forget that “inning from hell”. This was the worst game ever. My heart was broken, I hardly ever want to talk about this game. We were oh so close, but those goshdarn Royals came back to win this game, and the series. You gotta give them props, though. This was our last game of the season.
2015 was a very good season, in total, we snagged 146 baseballs in 30 games. Not shabby at all. Our best season yet. What made it the best is that we finished in 2nd place for Junior Ballhawk of the Year on mygameballs.com (congrats, Cole) but I’m coming for 1st place next year. That is a goal I have, and I know I can do it. I am happy for all the memories that this year has brought, and I’m looking forward to ballhawking in my 9th FULL year of ballhawking (technically this is our 10th, but we only ballhawked in 1 game in 2007), but most importantly, seeing the Astros and maybe a World Series Winner. As always, GO ASTROS!