Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

2012 NL East Predictions and Preview

I’ve been posting 2012 MLB Previews for each division throughout the past two weeks.  In case you missed it, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, and AL West preview by clicking on the links provided.

It’s time to move onto the National League.  First up, is the NL East.

I’ve also included 2012 Predicted statistics from the 2012 Major League Baseball Yearbook and Fantasy Guide.

1ST Place:  Philadelphia Phillies (My prediction: 95-67)

This Philadelphia Phillies were the top team in 2011, winning 102 games, before losing in the first round of the playoffs.  Over the past five years, the Phillies have only improved during the regular season, winning 89 games in 2007, then 92, 93, 97, and 102.  However, I am predicting that they regress a little bit in 2012, thanks to a strengthened National League Eastern Division.

The Phillies have one of the best rotations in the game, despite losing Roy Oswalt.

Anchored by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels – the Phillies shouldn’t experience and losing streaks longer than three games.

The Phillies also added Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason to close games out.  Papelbon is one of the top relievers in the game, despite his 2011 finale against the Orioles, where he blew the game and the season for the Red Sox.

The Phillies have a decent offense.  Ryan Howard is coming off of an injury, and had a bit of an offseason in 2011, hitting just .253 with 33 home runs.

Chase Utley has been in decline the past three years, each year worst than the last.  To be fair, he has been riddled with injuries over the past two seasons.  He hit just .259 with 11 homers last season.

I’m not thrilled with Placido Polonco as the Phillies third baseman.  Third base is a power position, and Polonco is a contact hitter.  He hit .277 with 5 HR and 50 RBI last year, along with a .335 on base percentage.

However, the Phillies brought in Ty Wigginton to be a super utility type player, and he could unseat Polonco as the regular starter at third.

Phillies fans have to be upbeat about their outfield.  They have John Mayberry in left field, or possibly Laynce Nix… Shane Victorino in centerfield and Hunter Pence in right field.

For me, I’m most intrigued with Jim Thome signing with the Phillies.  Thome hasn’t played the field much in recent years, but I’m hoping that he gets some time at first base, and isn’t just a pinch-hit only type guy like Matt Stairs was the final few years of his career.

Here’s their 2012 statistical projections.
C Carlos Ruiz .289-6-43
1B Ryan Howard .259-29-98
1B Jim Thome .266-14-43
2B Chase Utley .279-20-74
3B Placido Polanco .284-6-52
3B Ty Wigginton .258-10-34
SS Jimmy Rollins .279-19-74
LF John Mayberry .261-24-77
CF Shane Victorino .272-18-67
RF Hunter Pence .302-23-91

SP Roy Halladay 19-8, 2.42 ERA, 234 IP, 212 K
SP Cliff Lee 19-8, 2.89 ERA, 221 IP, 210 K
SP Cole Hamels 14-10, 3.11 ERA, 191 K
SP Vance Worley 12-8, 3.90 ERA, 135 K
SP Joe Blanton 5-4, 4.66 ERA, 100 IP, 81 K
RP Jonathan Papelbon 3.34 ERA, 30 saves, 65 IP, 80 K
RP Antonio Bastadro 3.43 ERA, 3 saves, 60 IP, 74 K

2nd place:  Atlanta Braves (My prediction 87-75)
The Atlanta Braves are going to battle it out with the Marlins and Nationals all season long for a wild card spot.  For me, the Braves starting rotation gives them a slight edge.

Tim Hudson is 36 years old, but figures to be the ace of the staff, after posting a 16-10 record with a 3.22 ERA in 2011.

The Braves also welcome back Jair Jurrjens in 2011, despite trying to trade him and Martin Prado for most of the offseason.  Jurrjens had a 2.96 ERA last season.

Tommy Hanson began spring training a bit banged up after being in an accident, but his concussion like symptoms should be cleared up by opening day.  Hanson struggled at times in 2011, posting a 3.60 ERA.

Brandon Beachy led the Braves last year with 169 strikeouts, and continues the trend of top to bottom rotational depth on the Braves.

For their fifth starter, the Braves will choose either Julio Teheran or Mike Minor.   With a rotation like they have lined up, its hard not to choose them as second in the division, no matter how much I don’t like them.

Offensively, the Braves have some stars with Brian McCann behind the plate (24 HR in ’11)

and Dan Uggla (36 HR) at second.  Uggla couldn’t hit his weight for much of the season before going on an impressive 33 game hitting streak to salvage his season.

The Braves also have some questions marks.  Will Chipper Jones be able to play regularly at a high level?  He’s 40 years old now, and hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup regularly for two years now.

Will Jason Heyward’s reconstructed swing hasten him back to the days of 2010 when he was a star rookie?  Or will he struggle again like he did in 2011? (.227/14/14)

Will Matt Diaz defy all odds and actually hit a home run?

How will Tyler Pastornicky do?  He could be the team’s opening day shortstop.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Brian McCann .263-22-70
1B Freddie Freeman .296-22-83
2B Dan Uggla .253-36-90
3B Chipper Jones .268-18-67
SS Tyler Pastornicky .256-4-29
LF Martin Prado .271-15-67
CF Michael Bourne .290-2-51
RF Jason Heyward .255-19-66

SP Tim Hudson 17-10, 3.05 ERA, 224 IP, 155 K
SP Jair Jurrjens 15-10, 3.57 ERA, 209 IP, 137 K
SP Tommy Hanson 15-8, 3.82 ERA, 177 IP, 171 K
SP Brandon Beachy 11-8, 3.78 ERA, 179 IP, 187 K
SP Julio Teheran 9-6, 4.01 ERA, 126 IP, 70 K
RP Craig Kimbrel 1.81 ERA, 35 saves, 70 IP, 118 K
RP Jonny Venters 2.35 ERA, 3 saves, 84 IP, 88 K

3rd place: Miami Marlins (My prediction 85-77)

The Marlins went on a spending spree this winter as they move into a new stadium this year.  Despite losing out on the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, they did manage to sign impact free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell.  It’s full steam ahead for the Marlins in 2012.

The Marlins offense looks to be quite good.  They’ve got John Buck, who has power, but struggles to hit for average behind the plate.  He only hit .227 last year.

Gaby Sanchez is a solid first baseman offensively – he hit 19 homers last year.  He’s no Albert Pujols, but he’s respectable.  At least he throws a mean clothesline.  Ask Nyjer Morgan.

Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio could share time at second base in 2012.  Bonifacio could also spend time in the outfield, displacing Chris Coghlan.

Hanley Ramirez will garner some attention as he moves from shortstop to third base.  Ramirez appeared to be upset with the move at first, which was necessitated when the Marlins traded for Reyes.  However, he seems to be warming up to the idea of playing third, and hopefully his bat warms too, because he was bad last year.  The former All Star only hit .243 with 10 homers.

Jose Reyes was the batting champ last year, and probably the third best free agent behind Pujols and Prince Fielder in 2012.  He brings speed and excitement to the Marlins.

The outfield looks solid at the corners with Mike Stanton on track to have another monster year.  He launched 34 home runs in 2011, and figures to hit even more as he continues to age and progress as a player.  He’s only 22 years old after all.

Logan Morrison, known more for his antics off the field with his zany twitter alter-ego LoMo, hopes to make a name for himself on it as well this year.  He did well in 2011, hitting 23 home runs, but saw his average dip to .247.

In center field, Emilio Bonifacion will play, or possibly Chris Coghlan.  Coghlan was injured much of 2011, hitting only .230.  Some would say it’s karma after this incident involving fellow ballhawker the Happy Youngster.  Coghlan went on to win the rookie of the year, while the Happy Youngster got a bad rep and faded away from the ballhawking scene.  Maybe the Youngster makes a comeback in ’12?

As far as their rotation is concerned, the Marlins look like they’ll be decent, but not great.

Josh Johnson is returning from an injury, but has the talent to be a front line starter.  He had a 1.64 ERA in 9 starts before being injured last season.

Mark Buehrle is a proven veteran that is a solid #2 starter.

Behind those two, the Marlins have Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez.  Nothing spectacular, but acceptable as starters.

Interestingly, the Marlins traded for Carlos Zambrano.  After a rocky career in Chicago, things have been quiet so far on the Zambrano front.

At the back of the bullpen, they’ve got Heath Bell to close things out.  Bell had 43 saves for a poor Padres team in 2011, so he could do even better in 2012.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C John Buck .241-17-66
1B Gaby Sanchez .262-18-76
2B Omar Infante .290-10-59
3B Hanley Ramirez .291-22-91
SS Jose Reyes .318-10-52
LF Logan Morrison .250-24-80
CF Emilio Bonifacio .292-4-31
RF Mike Stanton .265-38-97

SP Josh Johnson 14-6, 2.54 ERA, 226 IP, 216 K
SP Mark Buehrle 13-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 103 K
SP Ricky Nolasco 13-12, 4.60 ERA, 205 IP, 168 K
SP Anibal Sanchez 9-10, 3.64 ERA, 180 IP, 169 K
SP Carlos Zambrano 11-10, 4.52 ERA, 163 IP, 120 K
RP Heath Bell 2.64 ERA, 41 saves, 65 IP, 65 K
RP Juan Oviedo 4.00 ERA, 4 saves, 63 IP, 59 K

4th place: Washington Nationals (My prediction: 84-78)
The Nationals are an improved team over last year, they added Edwin Jackson and are getting Stephen Strasburg back from an injury that cost him most of 2011.

The Nationals were unlucky and lost out on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes to Detroit and are stuck with Adam LaRoche as their first baseman.  LaRoche should not get Nationals fans excited.  Based on his track record, he will be abysmal until the All Star break and then recover to finish with a slightly above average line.  I’ve seen it in Pittsburgh.  Us Pirates fans were expecting 40 HR and 100 RBI with the short right field fence, but it never came close to happening with LaRoche.  If LaRoche really bombs in his rebound year from injury, the Nats could put Mike Morse at first base and open up a spot in the outfield for Bryce Harper.

Wilson Ramos, acquired from the Nationals for ex-Pirates reliever Matt Capps survived a harrowing ordeal during the offseason when he was kidnapped at gunpoint and held captive.  Thankfully, he was rescued without injury and looks to follow up a 15 HR, .445 slugging season with another decent offensive showing.

The Nationals have a power source at second base in Danny Espinosa.  He slugged 21 homers last year despite hitting just .236.

Ryan Zimmerman just signed a $100 million dollar contract to keep him in a Nationals uniform til 2020.  That’s a serious commitment to what many in the Nationals brass consider the face of the franchise.  Zimmerman was injured for part of 2011, and hit only 12 homers – but if healthy, he’s capable of putting up 25-30 HR on the board while playing excellent defense.  He’ll want to prove to everyone that he’s worth the $100 million.  Although one baseball writer tweeted, “$100 million is an awful lot for a one time all-star.”

In the outfield, the Nationals are set with Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth.  Werth was terrible in 2011.  He may have hit 20 homers, but Nationals fans expected more power, and certainly better than a .232 batting average and .389 slugging percentage.  Werth was one of the best players in the league before signing with the Nationals.  His statistics took a nosedive once he joined the team.  He is one of several reasons why the Nationals could be the surprise team in 2012.  Can he return to the Werth that roamed the outfield for the Phillies?

Michael Morse is probably my favorite Nationals player.  If you get the chance to go to a Nationals game, simply stand in left center field and get ready to be bombarded with home run balls.  The guy is a monster.  He reminds me a lot of Mike Stanton in terms of body structure and pure power.  After hitting .303/31/95 in 2011, he could be a candidate to hit 40 homers.

A major question in the Nationals outfield leading into 2012 is if Bryce Harper will be the starting right fielder in 2012.  Manager Davey Johnson said the 19 year old has a chance.  If he makes the team, expect the same level of hype to follow Harper around that Stephen Strasburg had back in 2010.

In terms of the rotation, its much improved after the signing of Edwin Jackson to an 11 million dollar one year contract.  Personally, I don’t think much of Jackson after he spurned the Pirates 3 year $30 million offer to accept less money with the Nationals.  He’s an excellent #2 pitcher though.

The ace of the Nationals is Stephen Strasburg and he may be babied again in 2012 as the Nats seem terrified of him getting injured again.  If Strasburg weren’t on strict pitch counts, his strike out numbers could be ridiculous.  However, he still has amazing stuff and should baffle hitters all season long.  He’s a special player.  I’ll never forget attending his major league debut against the Pirates in Washington DC in June of 2010.

The Nationals’ third starter is Gio Gonzalez, the ex-ace of the Oakland Athletics.  He posted a 16-12 record with a 3.12 ERA in the American League last year.  Reason states that his ERA should drop a little since he doesn’t have to face the DH in the National League anymore.

The Nationals rest of the rotation is average.  At the back end they’ve got Drew Storen to close out games, or possibly new addition Brad Lidge.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Wilson Ramos .269-16-55
1B Adam LaRoche .243-14-56
2B Danny Espinosa .258-23-72
3B Ryan Zimmerman .296-24-81
SS Ian Desmond .261-8-51
LF Michael Morse .300-30-90
CF Roger Bernadina .238-7-30
RF Jayson Werth .245-20-64

SP Stephen Strasburg 13-6, 2.40 ERA, 139 IP, 151 K
SP Gio Gonzalez 16-11, 3.25 ERA, 211 IP, 208 K
SP Jordan Zimmerman 10-19, 4.33 ERA, 141 IP, 102 K
SP Edwin Jackson 13-9, 3.95 ERA, 203 IP, 156 K
SP John Lannan 12-11, 4.01 ERA, 191 IP, 117 K
SP Chien Ming Wang 9-7, 3.83 ERA, 125 IP, 47
RP Drew Storen 3.01 ERA, 38 saves, 81 IP, 81 K
RP Tyler Clippard 2.34 ERA, 0 saves, 85 IP, 100 K

5th place:  New York Mets (My prediction 62-100)
The Mets are going to be bad in 2012.  They are slashing payroll left and right, and might deal David Wright at the trade deadline this year.

Am I wrong Mets fans?  I think they’ll lose 100 games.  The division is tough, and they are worse than last year.

David Wright is the long bright spot, but there’s really no one to protect him in the order.

Ike Davis has some pop, but will be be consistent throughout the season?

Then there’s Jason Bay, one of the biggest free agent busts since Barry Zito.  After signing a $66 million contract, Bay has done next to nothing.  Maybe moving the fences in at Citi Field will help him some.

Andres Torres, a 4th or 5th outfielder on just about every other team, will be the starting center fielder.

Ruben Tejada is no Jose Reyes at shortstop.  He has no power, but can hit for an acceptable average near .300.

The rotation pales in comparison to the other four teams in the division.  Johan Santana will finally be back after missing an eternity due to injury.  If he’s half the pitcher he used to be, he’ll still be the best pitcher on the Mets.

It’s going to be a long year.  At least watching RA Dickeys facial expressions and knuckleball should be fun.

2012 Statistical Projections:

C Josh Thole .273-4-46
1B Ike Davis .260-20-73
2B Daniel Murphy .318-8-66
3B David Wright .269-20-87
SS Ruben Tejada .288-0-60
LF Jason Bay .252-16-76
CF Andres Torres .237-6-27
RF Lucas Duda .301-13-61

SP Johan Santana 12-7, 2.84 ERA, 162 IP, 142 K
SP Mike Pelfrey 11-11, 4.39 ERA, 193 IP, 106 K
SP Jonathon Niese 10-11, 4.43 ERA, 167 IP, 146 K
SP Dillon Gee 12-10, 4.79 ERA, 179 IP, 134 K
SP RA Dickey 9-12, 3.13 ERA, 201 IP, 125 K
RP Frank Francisco 3.33 ERA, 28 saves, 51 IP, 55 K
RP Jon Rauch 4.05 ERA, 5 saves, 53 IP, 39 K

So, to review,  I have:
1) Phillies
2) Braves
3) Marlins
4) Nationals
5) Mets

I think the Braves, Marlins, and Nationals could be pretty much interchangeable though, as they are all similar in talent level.

What are your thoughts?

Leave a comment!

There’s only 37 days until opening day, and 4 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). Also, the first listed Spring Training game on the MLB schedule is tomorrow when the Phillies take on the Seminoles. Also, just five more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.

4-3-11 Nationals Park

We were back at Nationals Park for another game today.
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Hopefully today would be a bit better day for me. 
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The weather was expected to be a bit warmer with no chance of rain.
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Amy was back in charge of the camera, and did a fantastic job taking lots of pictures.
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She once said that one of the jobs she’d considered was being a photographer.  She always finds good stuff to take photos of, even if its not baseball related, such as this cocoon on a cherry tree outside of Nationals Park:

1dayabutterfly.jpgWe were again first in line, so to pass the time, Nick and I played catch.
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This time, we played catch on the street, so as not to get yelled at by security. 
100_8446.JPGWhen the gates opened, we ran in to look for baseballs,
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but there were none.  I made my way over to center field and spotted a ball below, but there were security guards everywhere down there. 
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I thought about asking them to toss it up, but they were engaged in a conversation.  I went and checked the gaps behind the walls, which were empty.  When I came back that ball was gone.

Much like yesterday, my day got off to another really slow start.  There was a lot of inactivity and waiting.
100_8471.JPGAll I could do is look at Amy with a “this is going to well” look.
100_8478.JPGI noticed a few balls were landing in the seats in right field, so I hustled over to try and get in on some of the action.

Amy was right behind me to capture the action.

 

100_8482.JPGOnce there I set up in the third row.
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I didn’t have to wait too long as Laynce Nix launched a home run in my direction.  I could tell that the ball was going to be a bit short, so I had to scale the row of seats in front of me to catch the ball just above the man in red’s black glove. 
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Here I am with my first ball of the day.
100_8499.JPGI headed over to left field with Nick, but it was too crowded, and I got shut out there despite several home runs landing here and there.
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I headed back to right field to stay for a majority of the Braves batting practice. 
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After changing quickly on the concourse, I made my way to right field.

I began cutting through the second row when I ball appeared out of nowhere.  Mike Minor randomly flipped a ball up from the warning track.  I reacted and caught the ball for my second of the day.  There wasn’t anyone else within a few feet of me, so I figured it really wasn’t intended for anyone in particular.  Here I am with Mike Minor below:
100_8581.JPGDespite several Braves batting, I noticed a ball land in the gap in left center field.  I decided to go over and glove trick it immediately.

Here I am setting up the glove trick:
100_8600.JPGI leaned on the glass railing for a moment and pretended to watch BP so as not to bring attention to myself from the security guards.  I then lowered my glove over the ball:
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All eyes on you.jpgAnd reeled it in.
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That was my third ball of the day.

Upon returning to right field, I noticed another ball in the gap between the stands and scoreboard.

I glove tricked that ball too.
100_8612.JPGI’m was working with a new rubber band and it was working really well.  I snagged both glove trick balls in one try.
100_8618.JPGThe rest of batting practice was just a lot of standing around.  You can tell by Nick’s body language how slow things were.
100_8635.JPGNear the end of batting practice, I went over to left field above the bullpen to scope out the balls in the bullpen.

While there, an unidentified Braves player tossed my ball #5.
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Batting practice ended, and there were three balls that were gettable in the bullpen.  I knew how security was, so I spoke with the usher in the section, “There’s a ball in the bullpen that I can get with my glove,” I said.  “Is it ok if I get it?” 
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“Alright,”  She replied, “Imma let you get it.” 

I went to work and got the ball to stick in the glove on the first try.  Weirdly, the same lady that just gave me permission, came and started yelling at me.  “You can’t do that!”

“You just told me that I could get a ball from the bullpen.”

“No!  You have to stop.”

“OK, the ball’s stuck in my glove, should I throw it back onto the field or can I keep it?”
She ignored me.  So I stuck it in my pocket and let.  It was the sixth one of the day.

That would be it for batting practice.

We left the stadium after BP to head back to Pittsburgh. 
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We headed back to pictures and Amy was still snapping away.
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We left sunny 65 degree weather for dreariness.
100_8807.JPGHere are the baseballs I snagged today:
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And the sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:

Game:  6 balls (1 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device)
Season:  9 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device, 0 found)
Games: 2 games
Average:  4.50 balls per game
Career:  1,131 balls
Attendance: 22,210

4-2-11 Nationals Park

The 2011 baseball season kicked off for me this weekend in Washington DC.  Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak, my girlfriend Amy, and I headed down for the weekend.

On the way there, winter gave us hopefully, a goodbye, as we traveled through heavy snow in the mountains of Pennsylvania.  The roads were untreated, and we had to keep it at 40 mph.  It was rather treacherous.

We grabbed some breakfast at McDonalds in Breezewood:
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And continued on I-70 east.  Once the dawn arrived, the pictures of the snow turned out better, but trust me – the roads were much worse than this:
DSC00946.JPGWe got to Washington a little after 9AM, and shelled out $15 to park near the stadium.
DSC00947.JPGThe walk was through a construction zone. 
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I had my phone handy as I was keeping an eye on the weather.  It had rained and snowed for most of the trip to Washington DC, and there was a large percent chance of rain today, but according to the weather sites, it looked like it wouldn’t start until around noon or 1PM.

When we reached the intersection across from the stadium, there was thick cloud cover, but it looked like batting practice would be a go.
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We paused in front of Nationals Park for a few obligatory photos:
DSC00965.JPGAmy was the photographer for this trip.  We were in Washington for two games and she took over 900 photos.  She captured mostly everything.

Check out this awesome photo of the Washington Nationals logo she took with cherry blossoms:
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She’s the best.

The walk to the center field gate from home plate was extremely cold and windy.  When we got to the left field gate, we peered in to see if the cages were up.  It was inconclusive.
DSC00979.JPGWalking along the exterior of Nationals Park, I was looking for any new decorations or improvements. 
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It is probably the blandest most boring stadium I’ve ever seen from the outside.

When I rounded the corner to head towards the center field gate and the ticket offices, I noticed one change.  Do you see it?
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There were large mirrored baseballs installed on the outside of the stadium/parking garage.
DSC01012.JPGAt the main box office, we purchased the cheapest ticket available: $10 each.
DSC01015.JPGI purchased tickets for today’s game and tomorrow’s game as well.
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Then we headed over to the center field gate to stake our claim to the front spot in the line.
DSC01026.JPGAfter getting in line, I organized the string of my glove and tested out a new rubber band.
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We caught for maybe ten minutes before someone from the Nationals staff came out and enforced the no having fun unwritten rule that many staff members at MLB parks abide by.

10:30AM finally came and the gates opened.  Here was my first view of a major league baseball field in 2011:
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Nick and I were the first ones into the stadium, but I didn’t find any Easter Eggs.  Nick found 2.
100_8024.JPGBatting practice probably didn’t begin for at least 10 minutes until after the gates opened.  As the players were still warming up down the right field line.
100_8030.JPGAmy followed us back and forth between left field and right field for two full days taking lots of great shots.  Here’s one of the field from center field:
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And here Nick and I are in right field at the very beginning of batting practice.  I had checked the gaps behind the outfield walls for baseballs that I could glove trick, but there were none there.
100_8049.JPGAmy got lots of great action shots of the players too, because batting practice started out pretty bad for me.
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I got shut out for at least the first two groups if not three.   

The bounces weren’t going my way, and the home runs that were hit were always over my head.
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It was one of those days for me.

What would’ve been my first ball of the day was knocked away from me by the kid in blue who cut a row in front of me and knocked the ball to the right where some other fan grabbed it.
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Finally, after a long drought, Rick Ankiel hit a towering blast toward right field. 
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The ball was hit directly between Nick and I who were both in the same row.
100_8089.JPGSince Nick had already snagged several, he laid back and allowed me to make the clean catch uncontested.  Thanks Nick!  It was my first ball of the year and first of the 2011 season.  It broke a weird streak.  In 2009 both Nick and I got our first ball of the year thrown by Ian Snell.  In 2010, we both got our first ball of the year off the bat of Bobby Crosby.  The streak ended in 2011 when Nick found his first ball and mine was from Rick Ankiel.

Anyway, back in left field, there was a lot of waiting around during the Nationals batting practice.  100_8122.JPGI was expecting Jayson Werth to put on a show during batting practice.  He disappointed, exclusively hitting ball after ball to right field, but did hit two home runs.  One of which I caught on the fly, high above my head, fully extended.

Here I am bringing the ball over to Amy to put in my backpack.
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That would be all that I would get during the Nationals BP.

The Braves came out to hit, so I changed into my Braves garb. 
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I decided to stay mostly in right field for the Braves batting practice, as they were very heavily left handed oriented.

I set up shop in the aisle about three rows back in right field.
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I had to stay in the third row because those handrails that you see in the picture severely limit my range.  Being boxed in by people is bad, but being boxed in by people and handrails is agitating.

Anyhow, soon Nate McLouth hit a dying line drive right at me.  I ran down to the front row and made the catch just above the outfield wall for my third ball of the day.
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Here I am inspecting the ball.
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The Braves batters put a good number of balls into the seats, but I couldn’t get to any of them.  Someone was either in front of me: (they are obstructed in the picture)
100_8180.JPGOr over my head:
100_8183.JPGOr literally three feet over my head
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Or I would get completely robbed.
100_8215.JPGAmy took so many pictures!  But there were so many near misses. 

Every time I came close, I had to navigate around railings or people standing in aisles.
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And as a result, I’d be too late.
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Near the end of batting practice I spotted three balls in the bullpen.  They were perfect for the glove trick. 
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I rigged up my glove and headed over to double my days total in a matter of one or two minutes.

When I got to the bullpen area, the Braves finished their BP and were walking off the field. 
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The crowd started to thin out.  I needed to work fast.
100_8266.JPGJust as I began to lower my glove, two ushers swooped in and told me I had to stop. 

I ended the day with three baseballs.

Amy and I decided that we didn’t want to stay for the game and we’d rather go back to the hotel room for a little bit and then go explore Washington DC.  Nick would stay at the game.

Before heading out, we posed for a picture at Nationals Park:
Us 4-2-2011.jpgOur hotel was the Renaissance.  It is a $409 a night hotel, but we got it for $116 thanks to Priceline.com
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Here I am outside of the hotel:
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There was an interesting Chinese themed courtyard too:
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After all, we were two blocks from Chinatown.

Here’s a snapshot of the room we received:
100_8305.JPGAfter some quality time in the hotel room, we decided to explore the lobby and the surrounding area.  Amy was super pumped for free lemon water:
Lemonwater.jpgWe headed out into the city.
100_8320.JPGWe walked around Chinatown.
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You really couldn’t miss it with the giant arched entry way.
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The picture with the Chinese man wasn’t planned by the way…

Amy made the Chinatown entrance look better.
China town wmeew.jpgThere was some cool stuff, such as museums on just about every corner,
100_8333.JPGAmy was pretty pumped about Auntie Anne’s, but we didn’t stop to share our customary Cinnamon Pretzel.
100_8334.JPGWe came across some really creepy areas,
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but overall the area was decent.  The cherry blossoms added a nice touch to the city streets.
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After walking around for awhile, we decided to head over to the Georgetown area to go find DC Cupcakes, a store that Amy had seen on TLC, which has its own series on that network. 

On the way there, we passed a Ben & Jerry’s store, which was spewing bubbles all over the road.
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Eventually we came to the store that Amy wanted to visit.  It was called Georgetown Cupcake.  I guess DC cupcakes sounds better as a show title.
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We figured that we would park up the street somewhere and then run in and grab a cupcake just to say that we’d been there.

However, upon rounding the corner, we noticed a line.
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That extended as far as the eye could see.
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So, that was pretty much out of the question.  We headed back through Washington DC to go pick Nick up at Nationals Park.  It was almost 5PM.

At least the trees in Washington DC were blossoming. 
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Its still cold and dreary in Pittsburgh.  And everything is still dead.

Here’s some shots that Amy took on the drive back.  The Cherry Blossoms were out in full bloom!
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100_8393.JPG100_8402.JPGBeautiful:
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Washington Monument:
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We arrived back at the hotel after picking Nick up and unpacked all of our things.  We would then go out for dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s and get the worst waiter ever. 

Chinatown at night:
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We would then get up tomorrow and do it all over again.

Here are today’s baseballs:
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Sweet spots:

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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 balls (3 hit)
Season:  3 balls (3 hit, 0 thrown, 0 device, 0 found)
Games: 1 games
Average:  3.00 balls per game
Career:  1,125 balls
Attendance: 21,941

9-8-10 PNC Park

It was the last game of the homestand, and with only one nine game homestand remaining, I needed to have a decent day to have any chance of approaching the mygameballs.com single season record of 543 baseballs snagged in one season.

The day got off to a good start, as Sean Gallagher whistled at me to get my attention and threw me a ball.
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However, the ball sailed high and over my head, and another ballhawk, known as Baseball Joe grabbed it in the next section over.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  9 balls ( 3 hit, 2 thrown, 4 found )
Season:  517 balls (250 hit, 119 thrown, 72 device, 76 found)
Games: 80 games
Average:  6.46 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career:  1,095 balls
Streak:  176 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance: 13,113
Balls needed to break single season record: 27

7-28-10 Nationals Park

I didn’t feel like going through another toilsome batting practice in Cleveland, and storms were in the forecast there, so I drove down to Washington DC.

Two other ballhawks were in attendance at this game – Ian Weir from Pittsburgh, and Alex from New York City.

When the gates opened, the Nationals were just beginning to hit, so there weren’t any easter eggs.

I caught ball #1 on the fly off the bat of Wil Nieves.  It was a home run that was caught in this area:
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During the second group, I won a scrum for a Ryan Zimmerman home run ball that landed two rows in front of me in this area:

That would be all I would get during the Nationals batting practice.  Argh.  Did I make the wrong choice by coming to DC?

The Braves first group included Jason Heyward
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You’re not allowed to go get those balls, as one kid began climbing over the rail, before a security guard angrily yelled at him.  I motioned with my glove and string as if to say, “Is it ok if I throw this out there.”  The security guard made the non-verbal signal, “Oh yeah, go ahead.”

I flipped the kid a decoy ball and then threw my glove out and nudged ball #8 close enough to the glass so that I could simply reach other and grab it.  It took one fling of the glove.

I was about ready to leave the red seats to go check the left field bullpen when yet another home run landed in the gap in front of the red seats.

I glove tricked that ball for ball #9.

Batting practice ended soon after, and I was stuck on 9 balls – just short of double digits.

I really wanted to hit the road, but there were three balls laying in
the bullpen.

After standing and talking with Alex for about 20 minutes, Eddie Perez finally came out to the bullpen.  He collected the three balls, and I asked him for a ball in Spanish.  He ignored me.  I continued in Spanish to say, “There’s also one in the flowers over there near the wall.”
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Eddie went over and got it and tossed it up to me.  Ball #10.

It still had dirt on it.  Although, for some reason my camera didn’t focus that well.
7-28-10 (20).JPGAfter yesterday’s tough day, I was pretty happy I chose to come to DC. 
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I then hit the road for home.

Here are today’s baseballs:
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Sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  10 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 5 device)
Season:  347 balls (177 hit, 76 thrown, 41 device, 44 found)
Games: 54 games
Average:  6.43 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career:  925 balls
Streak:  150 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance: 24,263

5-23-2010 PNC Park

It was a dreaded Sunday game.  The game last night ended around midnight.  Surely there wouldn’t be batting practice.

Each Sunday, I head down to the stadium and peer through the gates around 11:15 or so.  If the cages are up, I will stay, if not, I just turn around and go home.  No big deal.

I hate Sunday games because there’s always kids everywhere, and there’s always some special event bringing throngs of people.
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I was floored when I saw this through the gate Sunday morning:
100_2923.JPGSTATISTICS:
Game:  5 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown)
Season:  135 balls (83 hit, 29 thrown, 9 device, 14 found)
Games: 20 games
Average:  6.75 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career:  713 balls
Streak:  116 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  23,045

5-22-2010 PNC Park

I was debating about whether to attend this game, or head to Cleveland with fellow ballhawk Nick.  I chose to go to this game because I had ten extra tickets to get Garrett Jones figurines that I could sell for some extra traveling funds. 

When I arrived at the park at about 4:20, the tarp wasn’t on the field and the cages weren’t up either.  However, by 4:30, the tarp was on.  Light rain would arrive just after 4:30 with intense rain beginning around game time.

I was at the end of a pretty long line, so when I finally got into the stadium I made a dash for the foul territory in left field where Brian Burres and Ross Ohlendorf were playing catch.
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I was the only one behind them, so it was pretty much guaranteed I would get the ball, I just had to be patient

While waiting, something caught my eye.  It was a ball.  It was in a puddle of water on the tarp.  And it was absolutely soaked.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 balls (2 thrown, 1 found)
Season:  130 balls (79 hit, 28 thrown, 9 device, 14 found)
Games: 19 games
Average:  6.84 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career:  708 balls
Streak:  115 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  26,519

5-21-2010 PNC Park

Today was a tough day for all ballhawks in attendance at PNC Park.  There weren’t too many home runs, and of the home runs that were hit, most were to right field and either bounced back on the field, or were gobbled up by fans in the front row.

I was flat out robbed twice by fans in the front row.  One by a 50 year old who was in the front row and jumped to make the catch, inches in front of my waiting glove, and another by a college kid who was a row ahead of me and caught a home run barehanded about two inches in front of my glove.  In both cases, there was nothing that I could’ve done differently, as I was behind them.

On to the balls that I did snag.

My first ball of the day was a home run off the bat of Steve Pearce.  I misjudged the ball a bit.  I moved down a row, and barely made a snow cone catch, as I should’ve just stayed put.
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My second ball of the day was off the bat of another Pirate.  I’m not sure of the hitter, but they lofted a high fly ball towards left center.  I could tell it would be short, so rather than getting into a scrum in the front row, I ran back a few rows to about the fifth row back.  The ball landed on the warning track and took a 20 foot high bounce and directly into my glove. 

The Pirates wrapped things up at 5:20, a little earlier than recently. 

I changed into my Braves gear and managed to get Brian McCann to toss me a ball by the foul pole before he went in to hit. 
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STATISTICS:
Game:  5 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown)
Season:  127 balls (79 hit, 26 thrown, 9 device, 13 found)
Games: 18 games
Average:  7.06 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career:  705 balls
Streak:  114 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  22,470

4-19-09 PNC Park

I dragged myself out of bed after about five hours of sleep and went to today’s game.  I was hoping there would be batting practice today.  Even though it was Sunday, I thought maybe since yesterday was an afternoon game, that there would be BP.  I was right.

I decided to first ask Nyjer Morgan for a ball. 
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He was being asked by another fan to my right who had a Boston Red Sox hat on.  Nyjer came over and said, “Turn your hat around.”  The kid wouldn’t.  Morgan said, “Can’t do it, dawg.”  He proceeded to throw the ball to another fan wearing Pirate gear.  Soon after though, I got ball #1 from Nyjer Morgan.  I called his name and he tossed it up to me.

That was it for the Pirates portion of BP.  The Braves then came out and hit.  A ball rolled to the wall in left field, right at the 325 ft. marker.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  29 balls (13 hit, 10 thrown, 6 device)
Games:  7 (6 with BP, 1 without)
Average:  4.14 balls per game
Career:  195 balls
Attendance:   14,776

4-17-09 PNC Park

I was hoping to have a huge day today since the Penguins had a playoff game.  Sure enough, batting practice was pretty empty, but I didn’t have a stand out day.

My wife and I arrive at the park at 4:05 PM and were second in line.  I went into batting practice and looked for Easter Eggs, but there were none.  There were a couple ushers standing around and they must’ve picked up anything that came out.  I settled into my spot in left field and waited. 

An unidentified Pirate hit a deep fly ball.  He hit it right into the sun, but I was able to catch it on the fly… barely.  It almost went over my head.  Nonetheless, I had ball #1 of the day. 

Nyjer Morgan was shagging balls in the outfield and I called his name, he looked at me and tossed a ball, but it was headed for some random guy with a Pantera hat on.  The guy was holding a calendar and didn’t have a glove and looked out of place at batting practice.  He reached for the ball and missed it.  I picked the ball up on the deflection.  It was ball #2.  He kind of gave me a look like he expected me to give it to him, but I didn’t.  Since I called for Nyjer to throw the ball, I felt like I earned it, plus he didn’t have a glove and wasn’t prepared.

The Pirates portion of batting practice ended and the Braves came out to hit.  They weren’t hitting anything deep.  To make matters worse, batting practice looked like this:
100_0766.jpgI had so much room to roam and chase down home runs, but none were coming.  One finally did come out, but I misjudged the ball and it was over my head.  If I had been one row deeper I would have caught the ball.  I slammed my glove in disgust and muttered to myself.

I tried to chase down some other fly balls, but everything ended up falling short of the fence.  It was one of those days.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 Balls
Season:  20 Balls
Games:  5 Games (4 with batting practice, 1 without)
Average:  4.00 Balls per game
Career:  186 Balls
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