7/23/10, Washington Natoinals/Strasburg-a-mania

Epic floods… Amazing floods…
100 year floods. Over the course of the past few days, the greater
Milwaukee area has received upwards of 7 inches of rain in 5
hours. It poured, and poured, and poured and poured. Then it poured some more.
Then it slowed down, and then poured sheets.

 

Long story short, travel was
shut down for a day or so. You’d figure that
Miller Park,
one of the only domed stadiums in Major League Baseball wouldn’t be affected by
any type of weather, let alone some silly 5 hour rain storm. But alas, the
Milwaukee Brewer’s flight would be delayed; they would land in
Chicago and bus to Milwaukee… at around 6AM.
Not good for BP chances.

 

Upon arrival to the
ballpark, I knew something was fishy. Everything was going too well. No lines, ample parking and an upbeat attitude from most
of the ballpark staff. It was like the twilight zone. When I peeked onto the
field, the batting cage and nets were up and in place. The only thing lacking were
baseball players. There was literally no action on the field until about
4:45 PM, about 2 hours later than usual.

 

At that time, Randy Wolf
came out and began to prepare for a bullpen side-session.

july23Nationals 004.jpg

 

Sitting so close to the men
at work was rather interesting, as you hear things you’d never get from TV or
the website. Wolf has been having trouble locating his “waste pitch” fastball
in recent games, and was working on a sinking fastball or a two-seamer of sorts
in the bullpen.

 

“Why haven’t you thrown this
before?” asked Brewers pitching coach and incredible sham Rick Peterson.

 

“I dunno.” Replied Randy “Wolf
Pack” Wolf. After he threw his warm up baseball to a some kids a few tables to
my right, the crowd of about 50 or so diners at Friday’s Front Row Grill fell
completely silent. Whispers and mutters all around, the tone changed almost
immediately.

 

“Is that him?”

 

“Hall of Fame?”

 

“Strasburg.”

 

All words thrown around
under people’s breath. Collectively, everyone’s neck muscles creaked as their
fields of vision shifted from Randy Wolf 10 feet below them to rookie phenom
Steven Strasburg, 200 feet in front of them. Near utter silence for 10 minutes
was broken when the patron next to me asked “is that him?”

 

When I replied with “Yeah,
Strasburg,” his face lit up. While 200 restaurant goers were picking their jaws
up off the floor, I swooped in for some nice action shots of the phenom in
action:

july23Nationals 006.jpg

 

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Soon enough, the park would
open for business, and I would make my way directly behind Stephen Strasburg. A
few 8 or 9 year old kids were in the seating bowl about 30 minutes prior to
opening, but for some reason they didn’t position themselves directly behind
Stephen. So I capitalized on their rookie mistake:

july23Nationals 011.jpg

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See that ball that he’s
flipping? Moments later he concluded throwing, he underhanded that baseball to
Livan Hernandez, who promptly threw the baseball directly to me, for baseball #1 of the day and 1,005th
of my career
.  Here’s a close up of
the baseball, with the location of snagging behind it:

july23Nationals 017.jpg

 

After collecting my own
piece of Strasburg-a-mania memorabilia, I headed out to right field to prepare
for slugger Adam Dunn. If you don’t recall, when Adam Dunn came to bat last
season against Brewer’s relief pitcher Carlos Villanueva, he lifted a moon shot
out of
Miller Park
and onto the concourse, a retrieval that introduced the world to Ballhawk
Shawn. I maintain to this day that the home run was measured incorrectly, if the ball had bounced where they claim, I would
have caught the ball. Dunn’s home run last season flew 500 feet at the absolute
least
.

 

However, Dunn would only go
on to hit me baseball #2 and 1,006th
of my career
during batting practice. Once the big bopper group had concluded,
I headed down to the dugout to try and obtain a Strasburg autograph.

 

When he trotted over to a
few kids anxiously waiting his presence, the place went absolutely wild. About
100 people jam packed into 2 rows of seats. I had a 13 or 14 year old kid stand on top of the seat behind me, proceed
to put his feet on my shoulders and leap-frog me
. The trend continued
several times. Then, when someone tried to pick-pocket me in the scrum, I had
enough. I went berserk. Reaching around to feel my jostling wallet, I felt the
*******’s hand dart away. Someone had the nerve to unbutton my back pocket and
try to steal my wallet! Unbelievable. After signing about 5 autographs, Stephen
Strasburg noticed a small child in the front row getting completely smothered
and crying. Strasburg layed into the security guard behind him.

 

“You really gonna just let
that happen? This is outrageous; I’m done after this one.”

 

He walked away,
disappointedly shaking his head. If everyone would have acted like normal human
beings and lined up, probably all 100 of us would have taken away a piece of
history. But whatever, I got my Strasburg ball. I’m happy.

 

Fast forward to the game… It
was pretty uneventful. Corey Hart injured his wrist, hurting his trade value and
Brewer’s lineup:

july23Nationals 024.jpg

 

And another observation I
made during the game was that the National’s bullpen messes around. Profusely.
More than any other team I’ve seen. Pranks and jokes and talking to fans… it
was actually petty cool. Take a look at Drew Storen’s faces… and his Icy Hot elbow rub… and their gum wrapper frisbee contest:

july23Nationals 018.jpg

 

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During the game, relief
pitcher Miguel Bautista grabbed a pen and began to doodle on a baseball. I didn’t
know what he was writing or drawing, but I knew I NEEDED to have that baseball.
Long story short, I succeeded. Bullpen catcher Julian Martinez threw me the
graffiti-ed baseball, number 3 of the
day and 1,007th of my career
. Upon further inspection, it would
seem like he was making an instructional baseball. He placed his fingers over the
black lines, and depending on how he varied the grip, the baseball would tail
or cut in the direction of the arrows. Pretty cool, huh?:

july23Nationals 036.jpg

july23Nationals 038.jpg
 

 

 

And that was all she wrote.
More tomorrow!

1 Comment

You’re a hell of a ball-snatcher. I wish I could do that like you! Love you!Stephen Strasburg needs an appointment with Dr. James Andrews.

-John
skoog.mlblogs.com

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