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!