#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!
Top 5 Baseballs Snagged (So Far)
- 2015 Postseason Ball, Career #418– I snagged this at Game 3 of the 2015 ALDS here in Houston when they faced the Royals (ended up winning the 2015 World Series), and this was the icing on the cake to cap off an Astros win that day. To have finally snagged a ball with a postseason logo was a VERY big accomplishment to myself, but probably not as much as a World Series ball would be. (Your move, 2016 Astros.)
- Shea Stadium Commemorative, Career #10– This was the only ball we (my dad & I) snagged back at a game on August 3rd, 2008 when the Astros faced the Mets. We were barely starting our ballhawking careers, and this was our first commemorative baseball (presumably, the Mets brought these from New York.) But, it’s even more special because it was tossed up to us by Pedro Martinez, who ended up being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. Wow.
- Jose Altuve Foul Ball, Career #329– I snagged this at a game on May 29th, 2015, when the Astros faced the White Sox, the game had gone into extras, and I was waiting by the dugout, so when the game ended I could be in great position for an ump ball. With Altuve at bat (who tossed me a ball earlier in that year), he REALLY pulled one foul in MY direction near the dugout. For some reason, I ducked (because it was headed RIGHT for me) and when I looked back up, the ball was still in the air! It had bounced off a seat and I quickly snatched it up. It was my 8th lifetime foul ball. Also, the White Sox broadcast showed me, and you can see my snag by clicking HERE.
- Astros 2013 AL Inaugural Season Commemorative, Career #159- I snagged this on September 18th, 2013, when the Astros faced the Reds. Now even though the ball was commemorative, the story/slight significance of the ball really helped it get on this list. This was a late season game in which the Astros were wrapping up their 3rd straight 100 loss season, so people hardly went to the games, and I knew a security guard who was really relaxed and he let me sit in the 1st row behind the Astros’ dugout the whole night. Remarkably, I only got one ball (this one) the whole night behind the dugout. It came in the top of the 9th, with the game tied, 2 outs, the bases were loaded, and the batter had a 3-2 full count on him. Exciting, right? Well the batter struck out, and I got Carlos Corporan (the Astros’ catcher) to flip me the ball. (My 9th snag of the day) The game ended up going 13 innings, but we had to leave in the 10th inning because my dad said it was a school night. *sad face* I was upset because I needed one more for my first ever double-digit game. Would I have had it? I will never know.
- Christian Yelich Foul Ball, Career #202- What a magical day this was. July 26th, 2014. Long story short, I snagged my 200th lifetime ball, and two foul balls that day (BOTH of them were hit by Christian Yelich, ALMOST to the same spot) and this was the second of them. If you would like to read the FULL story, click HERE. It is an article that was published on mygameballs.com (with an inaccurate date though) about my snags that day.
Thanks for reading, guys! Comments, likes and shares are ALWAYS appreciated by me, and as usual, GO ASTROS!!!