The Pirates came back to Pittsburgh after an awful road trip to take on the rival Cubs of Chicago. I usually hate it when the Cubs come to Pittsburgh because their fans travel well, and there are usually almost as many Cubs fans as Pirates fans.
I didn’t get to the Center Field gate until 4:45 PM, so I figured I’d be at the end of a long line and lose a few minutes of BP time. Luckily, I was fifth in line, as the “crowd” was late arriving. There was a line back to the bridge by the time the gates opened at 5.
I’d been waiting for this day since last Wednesday, because I would have a chance to get my 100th ball of the season (I needed only 1 to achieve this milestone). I stood between Sections 135 and 136, as I usually do, and came up empty during the Pirates portion of batting practice, which was 15 minutes worth. The Pirates bat from 4:30-5:15, but the gates don’t open until 5 PM for season ticket holders. Yeah, its stupid.
During the Pirates portion of batting practice, Craig Hansen was being a bit childish. Several people had asked him for balls that rolled his way, but he refused to oblige. Around 5:10, a ball rolled towards Hansen. He picked it up and threw it high and hard. It hit off of a sign right below the score board. If it had been a Home Run, it would’ve measured 550-580 feet from home plate. Many folks around me took off running for the ball, swarming up the steps into the general admission bleachers. I didn’t budge. I figured Hansen had done it for his own amusement to watch all of the fans scurry about for the ball. I’d seen Hansen do this before. He took a ball during the last homestand and long tossed it way over the batters eye in Center Field. The ball presumably landed in the Allegheny. If any one got it, I’ll never know.
The next ball that rolled Hansen’s way was a ball that I got, but not until 20 minutes later. Hansen took the ball and chucked it into the upper deck. Some fans just looked at each other with astonished looks on their faces. I heard someone say, “Why did he do that?”
I made a mental note of where the ball landed, several rows up in Section 328, and returned my concentration to batting practice.
The Cubs were now taking batting practice and Alfonso Soriano was shagging balls in left field. I didn’t even bother asking him to toss and balls to me, as I noticed he was too busy doing ridiculous dance steps to horrible music. A few minutes into the Cubs portion of BP, Derrek Lee launched a deep fly to left field. The ball hit off of a railing separating Section 136 from the Handicapped seating area, as seen in the picture below. I drifted over to “take a look” at the HR, but I knew it was over my head. The ball slammed off the railing, and directly at me. I snatched it out of the air. It was ball #1 of the day, and my one-hundredth ball of the season. I received a congratulatory hand-shake from fellow ballhawk, Amac. It was nice to finally be in triple digits.
Soon after, 5:30 approached, and the rest of the stadium would be opening up. I positioned myself at the bottom of the stairs just inside the left field gate. At 5:30 I took off up the escalator, skipping every other step. I was winded after about three steps, but kept pushing on, knowing that Hansen’s ball was somewhere in the upper deck, untouched and waiting to be claimed.
After I reached the upper deck, I immediately turned left and went in the first walkway that I saw that led to Section 329. I dashed up the stairs, ran over one section, and there it was, ball #2. Thank you Craig Hansen.
I set up in the first row of Section 142. Its the first section you see there on the right field wall. While there I politely asked Neal Cotts, Sean Marshall, and Kosuke Fukudome for balls. They never so much as even glanced up at the top of the wall. Even though I had thrown on a Cubs shirt and hat. There were also two coaches with fungo bats. I was able to identify
them from their photos on my “cheat sheet,” but they never so much as
came within 50 feet of the wall. Meanwhile, I was watching Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano launch several balls into the left field bleachers. I was thinking, “Great choice Erik.” Enter the D-Train, Daryl Ward.
Ward launched a deep fly to right field. I judged it perfectly, but realized at the last second that the ball was going to fall short of the wall. I grabbed the front railing of the 21 foot high wall to support myself and reached as far as I could. I was able to make a basket catch on the ball with my arm outstretched as far as it could go. It was ball #3 of the day. I was getting ready to label the ball, when with the very next pitch, Ward sent another HR in the exact same spot. He had hit this ball with more force and it landed three rows behind me. It hit a chair, which killed the balls’ momentum and sat there in an empty row. I hopped over three rows and was able to throw my glove over the ball with less than a second to spare. Amac, a fellow ballhawk, who will probably comment that I robbed him, was after this HR ball and arrived just a split second too late. I had ball #4 of the day in my mitt.
Batting practice ended soon after, and I went to meet my wife at the Left Field gate. She had came late, because she had to work late and wasn’t home when I left my house. We had pretty good seats for this game, (or so we thought) in Section 222 Row K, Seats 1-2 (See view below). I was hoping to get some foul balls during the game, but all I got was annoyed.
When we got to our seats
around 6:30, the
Within fifteen minutes we were surrounded by an annoying old couple to our left, who kept sticking their bony hands in our faces pointing to something over on the right. Making matter worse was a family of five with two annoying kids who sat directly to our left. The little brats kept running up and down the stairs. Around the 3rd or 4th inning, Holly and I got up and watched the middle section of the game on TV from comfortable chairs in the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. After the Pirates fell behind 10-1, we decided to leave the game early, as we are both starting back to school this week and were really tired from getting up early
The Pirates ended up getting crushed 12-3. I was happy with 4 balls. I discussed batting practice with 3 fellow ball hawks on my way to the designated driver booth to sign up for a free drink. Two of them got shut out, and Amac came away with 1 ball in batting practice. My day’s work is pictured below.
Game: 4 Balls
Season: 103 Balls
Career: 141 Balls
Attendance: 14,454 (37.7% full)