- 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!
“The Astros Ballhawk” has been revived!
My ballot, which has been revised since my last post in 2016:
- Chipper Jones– One of the best switch hitters of all-time, a part of the legendary Braves’ team of the 90’s & 10’s, a lifetime .303 hitter, 468 home runs, averaged easily 100+ RBI’s per year, an OPS of .930, a real humble star, he represented a true team player, easily should get in this year.
- Jim Thome– 612 home runs alone should be enough to get into the HOF, but statistically one of the best first basemen of all-time, a true power bat throughout the 90’s/2000’s, also the nicest player ever in the history of MLB, a true role model, a very good eye at the plate with his .956 OPS, HOF’er.
- Vlad Guerrero– One of the most feared sluggers of his era, Vlad was consistently a MVP candidate year after year, a lifetime .318 hitter, a very durable and productive player (449 Home Runs?!) in only 16 seasons, should be inducted as an Expo!
- 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. He has earned a spot on my ballot for the first time.
- Trevor Hoffman– The closer who just got stuff done. A 7x All Star, 2x Reliever of the Year, averaging almost 40 saves per year, the highest career strikeout rate for a reliever, he was just dominant. And to do it for over 15 years? One of the best Padres’ ever. HOF worthy.
- Edgar Martinez– He
playedhit his position very well. One of the bests, if not THE best DH ever. 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– A 5x All Star, 3x Silver Slugger, to me, he was a very consistent power hitter, 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.
- Mike Mussina– Very underrated dominant pitcher. 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. He was great.
- 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, despite him being a complete douche since his playing days (to hell with politics!)
- 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.
What do you guys think? Make sure to stay tuned to my blog for more posts as I believe I am reviving this blog! Follow me on twitter @angel__arroyo. The actual results come in today, and I can’t wait!
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.
For a few years now (since 2013), the Texas Rangers have set up and played a pair of weekend exhibition games (dubbed, “Big League Weekend”) before the season starts at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Now, the Alamodome is mainly used as a football stadium, (for UTSA games) but for thesegames they transform it into a neat makeshift baseball stadium. The concept had me interested from the start and since San Antonio is pretty close to where I live, a three hour drive, I wanted to attend one. A new experience/stadium seemed really fun. Also, an exhibition game? It would be easy! When it was announced in the offseason of 2015 that they would bring it back again for 2016 when the Rangers would take on the reigning World Champs, the Royals (boo) I told myself, “I NEED to go.”
The game was also going to be only 3 days before my birthday on the 22nd (which has since passed, I’m 16 now, hooray!) making it convincible, the only thing I needed to do was ask my dad. Well, let’s just say that I totally forgot to do so & ended up asking about two weeks before the game. I was worried maybe he had plans already for that day, like work or something. He said yes to the plan. Phew. So it was set, my “ballhawking season opener” would be on Saturday, March 19th, 2016.
In these two weeks, I did lots of research over the Alamodome baseball experience. I wanted to know how ballhawking there was, good spots and everything. So much for that. I was practically going to be the first “real” ballhawk to snag baseballs there. (by real I mean registered member on mygameballs.com at least) I only found a few YouTube videos & lots of pics/maps of the venue. These were my only guidance. I did find out though 2 important things; 1) that because of the unusual configuration (it’s a rectangular football stadium, duh) left field was around 345 feet (yikes), while right field was only around 270 feet. Yes, 270 feet. Short fence= more baseballs, right? At least I figured out then where I was going for BP. To hell with left field.
2) Despite this being a exhibition/spring training game, the games drew around 30,000 each night (respectable since the capacity of the Alamodome is around 50,000) The city doesn’t have an MLB team (only a triple-a team, the San Antonio Missions, affiliate of the Padres) so it was a pretty deal for the people of San Antonio. With the crowd/energy, this was going to be like ballhawking at a regular season game.
The plan was to wake up and leave at 7 in the morning for the 2:00 PM start. (We ballhawks are crazy.) On the official website of “Big League Weekend”, it stated that the gates would open at 11:30, 2 1/2 before game time. (Here in Houston at MMP, it’s only 2 hours.) Perfect. So, leaving at 7 would have us arriving at around 10 in the city, getting something to eat for breakfast around the place would take us until 10:30-10:45, the drive/parking another 15 minutes, getting there at 11, 30 minutes before gates opened. Good, right? I was surely ready.
Finally that day came, and my whole family ended up coming along, not just my dad. (yay, family bonding!) Everything went to planned, a smooth drive, and we arrived at about 10:15. We passed by the Alamodome for the first time.
Cool. After stopping for breakfast at Taco House, (one of my favs breakfast in the city) we proceeded to the stadium around. 10:55. The area around was pretty weird as its near the interstate & a railroad station, leaving only two sides to park on which were both considerably far from the stadium. There was a fanfest set up nearby which I wanted no part of, I needed to get to a gate. Now, a problem I did face was I had no clue where to enter. I got no help determining where right field was (where I wanted to enter). Based on where we parked & walked to, the gate was named “Northeast Entrance”. I just hoped for the best. I waited with my dad outside for about 15 minutes while my sister & mom checked out the fanfest. Not a lot of people were in line, but my anxiety kicked in then (I call it my ballhawking anxiety) and strong cold winds that morning meant I was freezing my ass off. Finally, at 11:30 the gates opened and I rushed inside. Well, the gate ended up being the one directly behind home plate (oh well) but I made up for it by running like crazy towards the short right field. I was surprised how short it actually was, I felt so close. The Rangers were still hitting. Sadly, I was so in the moment that I forgot to take pics but my mom did get a pic of the field (from the 3rd deck) as BP started/gates opened.
Looks like a second deck shot, huh? It took us 5 minutes to get on the board, as a home run bounced from the back of the section, and rolled over to me. The first ball of our 2016 season. Sadly, it was a regular ball. My main goal for the day included snagging a spring training ball. I saw and heard they were being used during BP, but I hadn’t seen any yet.
Our second ball of the day came from a random tossup to my dad. Regular ball too. Ugh. 10 minutes passed as I stayed in right but these seats were fillin in fast. The sections were small & everybody pretty much had the same idea as me to go to right field. Our 3rd ball of the day was a cool snag. I have proved a visual representation.
So the ball pretty much landed in the third deck, but bounced back down at an angle, and with my swiftmaneuvering, it came right to me and I caught it on the bounce in mid-air . Cue crowd applause. Another regular ball. I had given up on the Rangers using ST balls. The last ball we snagged during Rangers BP, our 4th, was a ball that my dad got on a home run scramble.
So far, so good. I changed into my Royals gear as they took the field around 12, many other kids had the same idea too, as I saw lots of kiddos bring Royals hats and put them on too. Smart. Tough. More competiton.
Tossups at that point we’re going to be rough. Of course, as soon as a ball came near, every kid would yell at the top of their lungs, “BALL, BALL”. My polite requests were gone to waste. I brought a roster of all of the players on the Royals ST team, which helped since I was able to spot out certain rookies which would have meant an easy tossup most likely, but I was totally drowned out. With those, I had to rely on hit balls for Royals BP.
It took about 20 minutes into Royals BP for something to come my way, as Eric Hosmer was completely having great rounds. He hit one towards the third deck but it didn’t quite make it, instead hitting the facade of it. It came right towards me, and once again, I made another rebound catch. Number five of our day. I pulled it out of my glove to examine it, and boy was I happy.
HELL YEAH. (Btw, this was taken during the game.) Thankfully, the Royals were using them, and I got lucky. After this though, things went dead. I didn’t snag another baseball, but my dad did! Commemorative too! He managed to get a toss up giving us 6 on the day. Not a bad BP. We posed with our respective snags.
We decided to walk around for a little bit too and head towards a “sports memorabilia show” the was being hosted in the club level. The thing that got my interest was that several trophies were going to be displayed, including the Royals’ 2015 World Series Trophy. Bittersweet, as we all know that the Astros should’ve won it. Oh well, this year is our year!!!
It was time for the game then, which I just wanted to watch neutrally since I now dislike both teams (I hate the Rangers more though.) I decided to take pics and roam a bit to show my view & the overall stadium “feel.”
Quite a big stadium, nicely transformed for baseball. The game was pretty good honestly, and the first 7 innings went by quick (only two hours!) as the Rangers held a 7-6 lead. I decided to go down to the lower level to maybe snag an umpire ball but the only problem was I didn’t know where they entered/exited from. I took a wild guess with down the 3rd base line where a black curtain was as I saw players enter from there throughout the game, so why bother. The last 3 innings ended up taking an hour, as the Rangers now took a 13-6 lead. Now before I left my section in the third deck to the lower level, I found a COOL sign on the floor, that nobody picked up. I saw these signs all around the stadium displayed, but this one was just laying there. So of course, my inner hoarder came out and I ended up taking (borrowing, not stealing!!!) the sign. What was this sign? This.
Thoughts? I loved it. I reached the lower level and took a pic of my view.
The Rangers wrapped up the win, but sadly I picked the wrong spot for the umpires! Oh well. Overall I had a great time at this new ballpark for me, and yes these baseballs are counting. The paid attendance was above 30,000, so yes they WERE. Thanks, Alamodome for everything, especially your baseballs. My season has now begun and I’m ready to make this one the best. Go ASTROS!
- 6 baseballs this game
- 6 baseballs in 1 game this season. (6.00 average)
- 52 straight games catching at least one baseball
- 1 straight game catching at least five baseballs
- 8 straight games outside of Houston catching at least one baseball
- 38 baseballs snagged outside of Houston
- 426 lifetime baseballs
- Attendance: 33,592
#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.)