9-20-08 PNC Park, Astros @ Pirates

There was a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert tonight, and sellout was expected, so I wasn’t sure if batting practice would be crowded or not.  Luckily, it wasn’t as most of the “fans” of the band showed up around the 7th inning. 

My strategy for today was to spend the first part of batting practice in the left field corner in foul territory.  I wasn’t the first one to get to the spot, as a ballhawk named Dan beat me there.  I did however, have some early success in this spot.  Upon entering the lower level, being the second person in, I found ball #1 laying on a step.  I quickly snatched it up, wrote #160 on it, and got to the small 2 foot fence seperating the seats from the warning track in foul territory.  After watching the Pirates bat time after time, I’ve come to the realization that my best chance of getting a ball was to come to foul territory.  The Pirates best right handed home run hitter is Andy KaRoche, with Jason Michaels a close second.  However, they do not hit many.  I came to the left field foul line for players such as Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Brandon Moss.  They are left handed batters that I assumed would try to hit the ball the other way at some point during their turn in the cage.  I was anticipating their opposite field fly balls to slice directly to where I was.  However, they didn’t oblige.

Luckily Jack Wilson came up to bat.  He usually over pulls the ball into foul territory.  During his round he hit a long fly ball foul that rattled around in the seats around 20 rows up from where I was standing.  Immediately after he hit it, I went racing after it.  Just then, the very next pitch, Jack hit a line drive foul ball to the direct spot where I was just standing.   I was closer to the ball that was just hit, so I turned around and picked up ball #2, and then jogged up the stairs and found the ball that was hit 20 rows back, ball #3.    Luckily, there weren’t any other fans in the section, as it was still early (about 4:40).

Near the end of the Pirates round of BP I decided to move back to the left field bleachers as I noticed the Pirates were throwing a ton of balls into the stands.  Especially Ian Snell.  Predictably, they didn’t thow any to me.

During the Astros round of BP, I had an incident with a fellow fan.  There’s some guy who always wears a Pirates Batting Practice “Lebeck 22” Jersey on Saturday games.  He’s about 47 years old and sports a crappy Wal Mart plastic imitation glove.  I’m not a fan of this guy because he always stands in “my spot.”  Whenever he comes I usually go a row in front of him.  Anyway, a Houston Astros sent a deep home run ball directly at us.  The ball was over my head.  Lebeck reached up and almost caught the ball, but it hit in his unoiled, unbroken in glove pocket and bounced out.  Myself and another ballhawk went after the missed ball, and I ended up grabbing it barehanded underneath the bleacher.  It was ball #4.   This Lebeck guy was furious.  He started screaming at me that it was his ball because it hit his pocket.  When I totally ignored him and walked back to my spot he started calling me hurtful names, such as Jerk.  He went on to state that “I’ve never seen a ball hit in someone’s pocket and them not be given the ball.”  Apparently he has never been to batting practice before.  Just earlier in the day, Romulo Sanchez tossed a ball to a 16 year old kid named Amac.  Amac missed the ball due to the sun, and Jim raced over and snatched it away.  I misplayed maybe 4 balls this year that hit off of my glove.  I was never given the ball back.  Did I cry about it, no.  Lebeck continued making comments directed at me.  I largely ignored him.  The only thing I said to him was, “You missed the ball – If you want it, catch it.”  I decided not to use profanities or anything because I didn’t feel like escalating with this idiot.

Later on in batting practice I caught ball #5 on the fly by ranging to my right.  Near the end of batting practice I caught my final ball of the season on the bounce off of the warning track.  It was ball #6.  I had to leap and catch this one high above my head because I had to move down to row C due to it being the only open row.  Rows E-F are the best for playing the high bounces off of the warning track at PNC.

Game:  6 balls
Season: 127 balls
Career:  165 balls
Hit List:  165 Hits  ties me for #3939th place on the all time list with Jim Lindeman and Ron Gardenhire.  Lindeman is probably best know, at least by me, for his role as a bench player in RBI BASEBALL, probably one of the greatest baseball games ever created.  Whenever I was the Cardinals (usually picked them so I could run all over the competition with Coleman, Smith, and McGee), Lindeman was an important pinch hitter for my starting pitcher.

Attendance: 36,621 (95.5% full)