I was faced with the decision today of attending the Pirate game or skipping it. This is the weather forecast as of 1PM.
Batting practice would surely be canceled. I may get shut out for the first time since Sunday August 31st, 2008. I decided that since I am now in a competitive ballhawk league, that I had to go and at least try. I knew that my average balls per game would probably take a hit.
I went with my wife Holly and we arrived at the gates around 4:40 PM. The gates open during the week at 5 PM. Walking past the Stargell statue, I peered into the park and saw that sure enough, the tarp was covering the field. There was no batting practice today.
I entered the bleacher section at 5 PM and looked around for some Easter Eggs. There was nothing to be found, since it had been raining and drizzling all day long. Around 5:20, the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch. I followed a group of 6 other ballhawks up the escalator to go into the seating bowl to possibly catch an overthrow. Usually there are security guards that don’t permit entrance until 5:30, but there were none around. When we got to the front row right behind Matt Capps, Tyler Yates and company, a field security guard walked over and told us to go back to left field. Even though it was 5:24, he wouldn’t let us stay.
Meanwhile, the Astros pitchers came out to stretch. I decided that I might have a better chance getting a ball from them since there was a couple little kids and four high school kids watching the Pirates pitchers.
I decided to take the chance. I took off my Pirates sweatshirt exposing my black Astros shirt and donned my Houston hat and headed over to right field.
I lined myself up behind Russ Ortiz and Geoff Geary. I was the only one in the stands behind the Astros pitchers. I had 20 feet to my left and right without a soul in sight. There were 4 balls in play, as 8 pitchers were throwing. Jeff Fulchino finished his tosses and had a ball. I asked him for the ball and he made eye contact with me. He didn’t say anything, but went and talked to a fellow pitcher. A couple minutes later, Fulchino tossed me ball #1.
There were still 3 balls in play. Wesley Wright finished his tosses and gave his ball to a fan a little further down the line. It was a 10 year old kid wearing Pirate gear. Tim Byrdak was joking around and told the kid that he wasn’t done with the ball yet and to toss it back. The kid just stared at Byrdak confused and horrified. Byrdak urged him to toss the ball back. The kid then turned and ran away. It was rather amusing.
Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins finished their tossing next. I asked for the ball. Again, I was the only fan with Astros gear on, so Valverde looked at me and tossed me ball #2. There was one ball left and it was being used by Geoff Geary and Russ Ortiz. I snapped a picture on my cell phone.
The Pirates got some good relief work from their bullpen and ended up losing the game 4-1. Adam LaRoche accounted for the Pirates only run with a Home Run in the 9th inning. It was too little too late.
I tried to get a ball at the dugout after the game from an umpire and the Pirates pitchers, but failed to do so.
As I was ready to leave, I decided to walk around for a minute and collect a ticket stub or two. I notice in Section 124, about four rows back, a circular white object laying on the ground. Seriously? Could this be a ball? Since I waited for the bullpen coach to come in, it took some time and the stadium was basically vacant. I looked closer and sure enough, it was a major league baseball. How did this get here? Was it some little kid who didn’t really even care about it? Did someone catch it and it trickled out of their glove during the game? It was weird. I looked around and didn’t see anyone looking for a ball. There were only a half dozen fans left, waiting down at the dugout. So, I picked the ball up, making it ball #4 of the day. Usually, Easter Eggs that are found count as hit balls, but since there was no batting practice on this day, and it didn’t look like a game ball, I decided it was probably someone’s warm up ball. I’ll chalk it up under the thrown category.
I’m glad I went to the game despite the rain.
Here’s a look at today’s results: ( the media guide was free for being a season ticket holder. The bobblehead was won at a spin-a-wheel g
ame where they are giving away all of the left over promotions from 2008)
And a closer look at those Astros balls.
Game: 4 Balls (4 thrown)
Season: 17 Balls (7 hit, 8 thrown, 2 device)
Games: 4 Games (3 with BP, 1 without)
Average: 4.25 Balls per Game
Career: 183 Balls
Hit List: 183 ties me with former Pirate Chris Duffy for #3769 on the all time hit list.