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
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