Today’s game may be my final batting practice of the season – I may only attend one more game, and it’s a day game after a night game. You know what that means…
Meanwhile, I had been watching the weather, and decided that I would not attend tomorrows (Saturday’s) game. It is a Skyblast date, and the chance of rain is 100%. That means no batting practice, large crowds, and an all around tougher time snagging balls. I would need to have a huge day – I wanted reach the 400 balls snagged in one year benchmark.
Chaos had broken out in Pittsburgh the night before due to the G20 summit. I was hoping that this would scare people away from coming out early to batting practice – even if the Pirates were giving away Bobbleheads to entice folks to watch a potential 100 loss team.
I was second in line at PNC Park, arriving an hour and a half early. Helicopters hovered over my head, regiments of soldiers passed on foot patrol
and there was even the cavalry passing by.
We were standing directly next to each other. Manny turned and lofted the ball at us. It was no contest. I had longer arms, and made the catch about a foot in front of the other guys glove. It was ball #6. I also think it may have been the only ball that Manny threw into the crowd in his time in left field.
Another few minutes passed by, and two
more balls rolled to the wall. I reeled up ball #7 with the glove trick, and did the same with ball #8. Randy Wolf was coming over to pick up ball #8, but realized that I had it covered with the glove trick, and let it go, turning back to left field.
The ballpark had only been opened for 25 minutes, and I had already snagged 8 balls. Could I challenge the Jabs/Pelescak PNC Park record of 14?
No, as things slowed way, way down. The Dodgers’ batting practice approach reminded me of the Cardinals’ in that the hit many balls to the opposite field.
I was getting frustrated. The place looked like this around 5:30:
Which is nice, but there were still some folks clogging up rows, making me readjust my routes to any ball that was potentially coming into the stands.
These people got in my way a few times:
And this guy was the worse, because he stayed in virtually the same spot, but kept moving up or down one row, so I had to keep checking on his location.
I try to always familiarize myself with my surroundings almost before every BP pitch so I don’t crash into anyone or get blocked off from going for a ball.
In the last group, Ronny Belliard lofted a high fly ball that bounced on the warning track. I moved over a section and positioned myself perfectly to catch the high bounce. It was ball #9.
I only needed one more ball to complete my quest to get 400 balls. I had began the 2009 season with a goal of 300, but after reaching that last month on August 20th, I had made 400 a new goal for the season, to keep me motivated for the last five weeks of the season.
It was about 6:05ish, and batting practice was about to end in a few minutes. I was then faced with a tough decision. Stay in left field, which looked like this at 6:00….
or head over to center field to try and glove trick a ball that had rolled to the wall.
I decided to go give the ball a try. I rigged up the glove trick on the way over to center field, and non-chalantly made my way down to the front row. (I didn’t want to draw attention from the ushers by sprinting in there).
I looked around at the Dodgers players. No one was in a hurry to come get the ball, which was directly below me at the base of the wall.
With that in mind, I lowered my glove down over the ball, and reeled in ball #10.
Ball #300 and #400 of 2009 had both come via the glove trick. Snagging 400 balls in a season is quite an accomplishment. I believe only Zack Hample, myself, and probably the Happy Youngster (who will likely do it soon) have snagged 400 or more regular season balls in one season.
After snagging the ball, I asked my friend Nick (who is closing in on 300 balls in one season) to snap my picture.
I then got 25 extra tickets scanned, and lugged the bobbleheads back to my car. Noticing a large crowd waiting to get in the stadium (due to all the extra security measures), I decided to leave and not stay for the game.
If I end the season on an even 400, that would be a pretty cool thing anyway.
Game: 10 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown, 5 device)
Season: 400 balls (211 hit, 119 thrown, 70 device)
Games: 79 games (9 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.06 balls per game
Career: 566 balls
Streak: 94 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.