4-15-12 Nationals Park

It was Sunday and we were back for our second of two games at Nationals Park.

It’s such a pretty stadium:

Wait, not really:

Actually, after talking it over, it was unanimous between myself, Amy, and fellow ballhawk Nick that this is now our least favorite stadium.

At least this was a Sunday game, and there was no giveaway, so it wouldn’t be crowded early.  There was just one problem.  As we stood in line, we watched the video board which shows a live feed of the field.  There was no cage, and no activity at all going on.  We stood in line and debated what to do.  Finally, Amy asked the head supervisor if there was going to be batting practice, “Yeah, they’ll be out, I don’t know what time, but they’ll be out.”  At first I thought he was just making it up and had no clue.  But I decided that since we had stayed overnight, it would be a waste just to go home.  I took the supervisor at his word, and at 10:58 AM, 2 minutes before the gates opened, bought us tickets.

When we entered the field, there wasnt much action.

The Nationals came out and warmed up, but there was a few ballhawks that joined me in the second deck today, and I was unable to get a ball.

To make matters worse, the Nationals didn’t take batting practice, so after an hour passed, I still had nothing to show for my efforts.

I was able to get ball #1 with an assist from fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak.  He said he saw a coach take two balls and toss them into the empty seats in foul territory.  So, at noon when the rest of the stadium, we ran over and Nick grabbed the first ball, and after looking around for the second, I spotted it under a seat three rows back.  Thanks for the assist Nick.

It was a nice clean ball, so I didn’t number it.  I’ve decided to stop numbering Easter Eggs and Glove Trick balls, since they have little to no importance except in my overall numbers.  I’ve decided to hang onto them to either get them signed or sell eventually to finance some more trips.

Anyhow, this is the spot where I found ball #1:

The Reds finally started taking BP around noon, and I glove tricked my second ball from the gap in center field.

Before doing so, I looked around and there were no kids around at the time to hand the ball to, and no one was standing over the ball as if to ‘claim’ it.  However, as soon as I started lowering my glove, this ballhawk went off and started screaming at the groundscrew who were fifty feet away in the center field service tunnel to get him the ball, in hopes that they would get it before I could:
What’s worse is that he’s a ballhawk, as he had Nationals stuff on and tried to get a ball in the second deck earlier, and then switched to Reds stuff in center field.  Luckily, I glove tricked the ball on the first attempt before any staff member could retrieve it.  Maybe he was mad because Nick owned him on a toss up in the second deck earlier, and saw Nick and I talking and figured we were friends.  I don’t know.

My third ball was a clean catch in center field here near the end of batting practice:

It was the only home run that came into the center field seats.

That was it for batting practice.  Before leaving I looked in the bullpen and saw that there were nine balls sitting there.  Four were super easy glove trick balls directly below the overhang.

However, I didn’t even try.  I waited patiently.

Eventually, Ryan Hannigan came out about twenty minutes after BP and tossed every single ball up to fans.  I got the second one he tossed up for ball #4 on the day.

We left before the game started as it was a long drive back to Pittsburgh.   I only snagged seven ball over the two games, but we still managed to have fun.

Olivia loves baseball trips and checking out the kids playgrounds in the different parks.

Here’s today’s baseballs:

2012 Stats:
Game: 4 balls
Season: 40 balls
Lifetime: 1584 balls

4-14-12 Nationals Park

Today we would head to Washington DC for a Saturday/Sunday trip.

Today’s game would be a 4:05 start, meaning the gates would open at 1:30.

We ended up not making it to Nationals Park until almost 1 PM, and ended up being about 20th in one of the many lines that had formed.   Several minutes before the gates opened, this was the scene:

It was chaos.  The Nationals were giving away a Stephen Strasburg bobblehead to the first 15,000 fans.  In DC, everyone is crazy about Strasburg, so there were 15,000 people that showed up early, making batting practice really tough.

As soon as I got into the stadium, batting practice was just getting underway, so rather than scurrying around in left field looking for balls (there was already about 100 people in there anyhow by the time I got in), I headed straight up to the upper deck in right field.  This was my competition:

As a result, I was able to get a trainer to toss up a ball that a Nationals batter hit to the track in right center field.

As a result, I was able to get a trainer to toss up a ball that a Nationals batter hit to the track in right center field.

During batting practice, Nationals park only allows fans in left field, center field, and the upper deck in right field for the first hour.  For some odd reason, right field, which is the largest section of outfield seats, is closed off.

It became quite clear rather quickly that I would have to go for toss ups, or glove trick balls.

There were plenty of glove trick balls in the bullpens, but the Nationals are militant like in prohibiting ball retrievers from the bullpens, so I didn’t even try.  I did glove trick this ball from the gap in center field for ball #2.

After hauling it in, I turned and handed it to a little boy on my right.  It was a classic Nationals training ball.

In the meantime, batting practice was ridiculously crowded.  Worse than probably any opening day.  There was literally no room to really move and catch any BP home runs:

And the Nationals and Reds didn’t hit too many anyhow.

I ended up spending much of batting practice right next to the batters eye and trying to get toss ups.

Eventually, I was able to get Sam LeCure to toss me ball #3.

That was it.   What a zoo.

Here’s today’s baseballs (2 pictured because one was given away to a kid):

2012 Stats:
Game: 3 balls
Season: 36 balls
Lifetime: 1580 balls

4-9-12 Progressive Field

I went to Progressive Field on Monday, despite an iffy forecast of afternoon showers.  When we arrived, it looked as if it could start raining at any moment.

At one point I felt a drop or two, but the rain never materialized, and the Indians took early batting practice, which I watched with Amy, Olivia, and Nick from just outside the Toyota Home Run Porch.

There were several balls that landed in the seats, but the ushers would later pick most of them up later and pocket them for themselves.

Before the gates opened, Nick and I played catch.  It was about the fifth consecutive day that I had thrown, and my arm was feeling it.  I threw a lot sidearm or 3/4 because my arm was sore.

When the gates opened, I ran in and found nothing.

After a long dry spell to start BP, an Indian hit a ball into the trees at Heritage Park, which I just reached in and grabbed to put me on the board:

My second ball was a clean home run catch here:

And ball #3 was a clean home run catch here on the fly:

which resulted in me being booed because a twelve year old was two rows in front of me, and the ball sailed over his glove by a foot and into mine.  I didn’t give him the ball, and he and his dad ended up getting at least four that I saw, since there was no one there.

That was it for the Indians BP.  The White Sox BP was pretty bad, as it featured a majority of right handed batters. To make it just a little more difficult, all of the Sox players had pullovers on, so I could only really identify a few of their players such as John Danks and Will Ohman.  Plus, a trainer’s son was snagging 85% of the balls in right center, so not a lot of players were snagging flies near the outfield fence for me to put a request in.

I got shut out until 6PM when I found ball #4 in the left field bleachers.  Somehow an usher missed it, as it was tucked neatly under a bleacher near a support.

Ball #5 was a disaster.  I hate snagging in left field because its so steep.  Tyler Flowers, a young catcher with a ton of power hit a home run at me. I started running up the steps in the bleachers, thinking it was way over my head.  As I turned to find the ball, the struck me square in the back, bounced around, and rolled down a few rows, where I picked it up.  It should’ve been an easy catch for me, but I botched it.  I had wanted a Flowers ball, so I guess I should be happy that I at least got one, but still, I feel like I’m off to a rusty start to the 2012 season.

At 6:10, the White Sox ended BP, clearing the field, except for the infielders.  In a rare scene, the Sox took infield practice.

It began with the coach hitting balls to the outfielders and working on cutting throws, then it progressed to double plays, etc.  It was pretty cool to watch.  I stood right behind the dugout and waited.

There were no other White Sox fans around, so I figured I had a good shot to get a ball.

It worked, as Mark Salas tossed me a well worn ball that had been used in infield practice for ball #6.

After BP, I got Amy and I some fried cookie dough:

Not a bad trip to Cleveland.  I wish I could get here more often.

Here’s today’s baseballs:

2012 Stats:
Game: 6 balls
Season: 33 balls
Lifetime:1,577 balls

4-8-12 PNC Park

I got to PNC Park at around 10:45 AM, and the Pirates were already hitting.  Such an early start meant that both teams would likely take batting practice.  Sunday day games have always been a bit different, because there’s no season ticket holder time.  The Riverwalk opens at 11 AM (2.5 hours early), and the bullpen to the lower seating bowl always opens at 11:30 AM.  The rest of the gates open at noon.  It’s always been done that way.

This Sunday was different.

Security came out at 10:50 AM, right on time and checked bags and unlocked the gates.  However, no ticket scanners or gate supervisors showed up.

The gate supervisor showed a little bit before 11:30, and the gates to the Riverwalk opened at 11:30, that’s 2 hours before first pitch.

I went to the Pirates A to Z guide (link) and lifted this little nugget:

GATES OPEN  Gates open one and one half hours (1 1/2) prior to game time (Monday through Sunday) and two hours on Opening Day. The Riverwalk will open two (2) hours before weekday (Monday-Friday) games and two and one half hours (2 1/2) prior to weekend (Saturday-Sunday) games.

Somone messed up.  Maybe the A to Z guide isn’t current.  But since bags were checked at 10:50 AM by security, and the gates unlocked ( then security left for 20 minutes, then came back at 11:30) makes me believe that not everyone is on the same page.  Hopefully this gets ironed out because otherwise attending Sunday games aren’t really worth it for ballhawks.

It ended up basically ruining BP.  We missed all of the Pirates and almost all of the Phillies BP.

I stood here during the Phillies portion of BP from 11:30-noon.

Since it was the only vantage point to watch BP for a half hour, there were lots of fans standing around in this spot.  Three home run balls hit nearby, but I couldn’t get close enough to any of them.  One of them I should’ve caught, but I was out of position attempting to reach a ball that was inside the gate with the Cleveland stick.  It was out of reach anyhow.

When the park finally opened at noon, I went to center field and found two baseballs.  The ushers are being kind and not confiscating all of the balls.  Since I got the only two balls in the section, the usher asked me if I could give one to an elderly ballhawk, which I did.

After finding the balls in center field, I searched right field, but found nothing, so I spent the only 10-15 minutes of batting practice that I got to see in left field.

Of course it was super crowded.

Besides the two Easter Eggs, I got nothing else.

Here’s today’s baseball (one pictured because the other was given away):

2012 Stats:
Game: 2 balls
Season: 27 balls
Lifetime: 1,571 balls

4-7-12 PNC Park

After returning from Cleveland, we headed straight to PNC Park.  Just after arriving at the gates, a special visitor dropped by to say hello to the fans:

Frank Coonelly, team CEO.

Before the gates opened, Zac Weiss, Nick and I played some catch across the street.


When the gates opened, nothing really went my way.  After being shut out for a long while, I got Chris Leroux to toss me my first ball of the day.

He seemed really nice, and laughed when I said, “I can’t wait til June.”  (He’s on the 60 day DL).

My second ball was a glove trick ball.

Ball#3 was a ball that my glove collided with another ballhawk’s glove.  He drifted back and we both were about to make the catch when our gloves clanged together.  The ball popped out and landed on the bleacher, where I caught it off the bounce with my throwing hand.

Ball #4 was a scrum ball.  There was a kid that was also in pursuit of the ball.  I picked it up and flipped it to him:

When the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over to center field, as the other ballhawks all ran up to the right field wall and was able to find 2 balls there.

I didn’t get anything during the Phillies portion, and spent most of it in right field.

Here’s today’s baseballs: (5 pictured because one was given away):

2012 Statistics:
Game: 6 balls
Season: 25 balls
Lifetime: 1,569 balls

Happy Easter!

I’ve had a very busy week, but I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Easter.

I’ve decided to extend the Justin Morneau shirt contest. I just haven’t had time to do a contest video. When I get it done I’ll post it.

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4-7-12 Progressive Field

I headed to Cleveland this morning along with Amy, Olivia, and fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak.  We left around 7:45 and after searching for affordable parking, got to the gates around 10:20, over an hour before they were to open.

The game was a 1:05 day game, and Progressive Field only opens 90 minutes open for day games, meaning that if there was batting practice, we’d miss half of it.  It was a gamble, but it was worth taking as it’s early in the season.

The plan was to go there, and hope for loads of Easter Eggs that would be left behind by the Indians batters.  I peered in and saw that the Indians were indeed hitting.

Nice, there would be Easter Eggs everywhere.  Nick and I walked over to the Home Run porch and watched ball after ball land in the right field seats.  Unfortunately, there was an usher pretending to wipe off seats who was going around and pocketing them all.

It was important to get on the board early, because we were going to get an abbreviated batting practice with the late gate times, and also there was a huge crowd lined up to get in.

All of the gates opened at 11:30, and I ran in.  As I was looking for an Easter Egg, a home run landed a section to my right.  I ran over to pick it up, as the only person around was an usher who was acting like he was wiping off seats.  Well, the usher sprinted for the ball and grabbed it before I could.  Perhaps realizing how over the top it was, he looked at it and then flipped it to me to put me on the board.

I found a second ball in the seats a few rows back before heading over to left field.

I should mention that the visiting Blue Jays were already hitting when the gates opened, so we missed at least half of BP.

I hate Progressive Field’s left field.  It’s dangerously steep, and I always do poorly there.  After getting shut out for a round, I headed back to right field.

While there, I watched a ball bounce into the trees in Heritage Park.  I ran over and found it sitting just under the fence that separates the trees from the monuments.

In the Jays third group, which was all lefties, I caught a home run on the fly cleanly here:

And less than 20 seconds later corralled another home run that bounced off the concrete partition between the outfield wall and front row of seats here:

I failed to get anything else during batting practice.  I thought I had a sixth one that I saw go into the trees at Heritage Park, but after a thorough search, I gave up.  There were a couple teenagers there looking for the same ball, but none of us found it.  After BP, I returned and systematically scanned every inch of the area behind this wall:

Eventually, I found it after BP had ended when I searched a second time.  It was right up against the concrete out of view.  It was my sixth and final ball of the day.

I snapped a photo of this Jim Thome mural,

and then we took off before game time.  There was another batting practice to get to 2 hours away in Pittsburgh…

Today’s baseballs:

Sweet spots:

2012 Stats:
Game: 6 balls
Season: 19 balls
Career: 1,563 balls