4-6-12 Camden Yards Opening Day

Amy, Olivia and I got up at 6AM today in order to drive to Baltimore to catch the Orioles home opener.  Amy and Olivia had never experienced an Opening Day (Amy always has to work them) so they were both excited.

Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak teamed up with me on this trip, and we all left around 6:50 AM.  After a stop, we arrived at the Camden Yards gates at 11:20 AM and were fourth in line.

It was pretty chilly today, so Nick and I played catch for a bit to stay warm while Amy and Olivia snuggled together.  At 12 noon, all of the gates opened.  Every gate in the park.  There would be no season ticket holder only time today.

PNC Park did the same thing yesterday.  However, Camden Yards opened their gates three hours early, while PNC Park opened theirs two.

Upon entering, the Orioles players were playing catch along the first base line, and had yet to begin batting practice.

I was able to get Matt Wieters to toss me ball #1 on the day.  It helped that there weren’t many other fans around.  Fellow ballhawk and Baltimore regular Matt Hersl congratulated me on the first ball of the 2012 season.  He told me that ironically, he got the first ball of the 2011 season – from Matt Wieters.

Since I was the first one to get a ball, I decided to move back about 10 rows so the other ballhawks could try their luck.  I also thought that maybe a player would see me in my Ripken jersey and long toss me.  As I was walking up the stairs I spotted an Easter Egg.

It was only about three rows up, so it likely was an overthrow that the players had while warming up before the gates opened.

Anyhow, I headed out to left field once batting practice got under way.  The first Orioles group didn’t display much power, but I did snag a ground rule double here:

It actually tipped off my glove, but I recovered to pick it up in the row in front of me.

As batting practice progressed, left field got more and more crowded, so I spent some time going back and forth between left field and center field.

While in center field I glove tricked ball #4:

and ball #5 from the gap:

I saw ball#5 get bobbled by fans in the front row while I was in left field.  So, when I used the glove trick, I offered it to the fans nearby, asking if one of them had dropped it down there.  They just smiled and shook their heads no.  Nice people.

Near the end of the Orioles BP, I noticed that the Twins all came out to warm up.  I made my way from center field to the third base line and was able to get this player to toss me ball #6.  After throwing me the ball, he headed straight to third base to take grounders.  Can I get some help on who this is?

After snagging the ball, I took a closer look at it, and it was an Orioles Park 20th anniversary commemorative ball.  That made my day.

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The Twins are very heavily left handed, so I spent their entire batting practice in center field.  While there, I glove tricked another ball, after which an Orioles staff member came down to speak with me.  He wanted to know what I was doing.  I explained it to him and he told me how he thought I was lowering things down onto the field to get signed because of the pen that is attached to my glove.  I told him, “I just use it to get the balls out of the gap, I’m not putting it on the field, is that ok?”  He responded by telling me, “By all means, you’re more than welcome to do that.  Me and a fellow employee we’re just wondering is all.”

Everyone is so nice on Opening Day.

My eighth ball of batting practice was a clean catch of a line drive home run here:

There were several arms flailing for it, and I just took a few steps down the stairs and made the clean catch.

It was my 8th ball of the day, which tied a personal best for me at Camden Yards.  I had snagged eight there two other times.  Batting practice was about over, so I headed over to the Twins dugout to try and get #9:

It didn’t happen though, but I was still more than happy with 8:

After BP, Amy, Olivia and I made our way to our seats.

Olivia had her own special seat that ‘the Easter Bunny’ brought her:

She really took everything in:

One of the cool things about Opening Day is the ceremonies that precede the game.  Here are the Twins lining up on the field:

And the Orioles came out of the bullpen area on a long Orange Carpet:

Here’s a video of the Orioles introductions:

And the National Anthem.  You always know you’re in Baltimore when the song reaches the “Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner…”  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the Anthem:

It was a great Opening Day.  The Orioles ended up winning the game 4-2.  This was the view from our seats:

And here are today’s baseballs:

Amy bought me this shirt:

She’s the best!

2012 Stats:
Game: 8 Balls
Season: 13 Balls
Career: 1,557 Balls
Attendance: 46,773 (I think this may be the largest attended game I’ve ever been at)

Don’t forget about the Shirt giveaway – this Sunday.

4-5-12 PNC Park. Opening Day

Opening Day brings a new hope for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball.  Every team starts fresh from scratch.  Everyone is tied for first place.

It’s the same with us ballhawks.  There’s a website, mygameballs.com, where everyone starts even at zero to begin the season.

Last year on Opening Day, I snagged 13 balls.  The season ticket holder time came in handy, as I snagged 8 balls by 11:30.  You can read about that day here.

However, Opening Day 2012 was completely different.  All of the ticket scanners were ready to go at 10:50 AM, a good sign.

Several people asked what time the gate opened and were told, “Eleven.”

However, the minutes ticked away, and 11:00 came and went.  No security guards ever showed to unlock the gates or check bags.  Eventually, some guy appeared and talked to the ticket scanners.  The message he delivered was that the gate would open at 11:30 AM.

The line to get in had already swelled and split in two directions at the bridge.

Someone in charge had decided that there would be no season ticket holder time today.  ALL GATES would open at 11:30 AM, so there would be a mass rush and the bleachers would fill up quickly.

I was really disappointed.  To make matters worse, there was a relative of Manny Sanguillen’s who was allowed in the park before everyone else, and he went straight to the left field bleachers, so any balls that were in there, would be long gong.

When the gates opened and I ran in, the Phillies were already in the process of hitting.  Noooo!

I ran up into the upper bleachers hoping that maybe there would be an Easter Egg hidden up there.  When I did, I noticed a long fly ball head toward the left field wall.  Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak lined up to make the catch, but it fell short of the wall, hitting at the base of the wall and staying there.  I quickly ran down and looked.  The ball was directly below me.  I quickly used the glove trick and reeled in my first ball of the day to get on the board.  The whole glove trick took less than 10 seconds.  I lowered it over the ball and pulled it right up.  I was relieved because I knew that the day wouldn’t be completely ruined.  Whenever any of us are facing a shut out it creates unnecessary anxiety that makes the whole ballhawking experience much less enjoyable.

Anyhow, the left field bleachers filled up fast.  I only stayed there for the first group, and then headed over to right field, where it was drastically less crowded.  Even though the stadium had been opened for 20 minutes, I still looked for Easter Eggs, and I found one:

The ball was hit yesterday by Garrett Jones.  I made a mental note when I watched the ball hit the chain link fence, which basically killed all of the ball’s momentum.  I watched from left field as the ball softly disappeared out of sight – it had either fallen behind the fence or in a seat.  So, when I went to look, it was in the exact spot that I remembered.  Sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to every little detail during BP.

This was my view for most of BP, as I stayed in right field, and tried for toss ups from Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Kyle Kendrick.

I failed to get them to throw me anything, but managed to snag a Laynce Nix homer.  The ball was a mammoth fly, that I ran up and over a section to catch, but it was just beyond my reach.  Luckily, it landed in a seat and plopped calmly and slowly out the bottom of the seat, where I simply picked it up.

I made the snag here:

That was it for batting practice.  No where near as well as I did last year, but not bad given the circumstances.

After BP, I went and found my dad, who I attended this game with, and we went to Primanti brothers.  The line was pretty long, so while he stood in line, I went to go get a First Pitch program and also to check out the Budweiser Bow Tie Bar, a new area built behind section 101.

Here’s the entrance:

The bar:

Large fire pit warmers were located around the bar:

The bar has seven flat screen TVs:

And part of it faces the field:

Pretty nice.  It displaces the Root Sports station, which moved a section closer toward home plate:

After the quick visit to the Bow Tie Bar, we made our way to our seats to eat our Primanti Brothers sandwiches:

And watch the introductions:

I didn’t try ballhawking- I just stayed in my seat for most of the game.  I had a great view:

Near the end of the game, I ventured down to the main level to see Amy, who was working and this was the scene in left field:

Completely packed.  The cross aisle was completely filled.

In fact, this was the largest ever crowd to ever take in a game at PNC Park.  There were 39,585.

Lots of people came out to support their Buccos today.

Unfortunately, the Pirates laid an egg.  They scored 0 runs.  The first two batters, Alex Presley and Jose Tabata, had singles against Roy Halladay, and that was it.  No other batter got a hitter after those two.  Only two other batters reached base, by being hit by pitches.  The Phillies won 1-0, as the Pirates start the season 0-1.

The Pirates have the hardest schedule in baseball.  Look at their April and May schedule.  They don’t play a team that had a losing record in 2011 until they face the Astros in mid May.  All of the teams they play at the outset of the season were playoff teams or contenders last year.  We just can’t catch a break.

Anyway,
here are today’s three baseballs during the Phillies portion of BP:

2012 stats
Game: 3 balls
Season: 5 balls
Career: 1,549 balls

Tomorrow, I’ll be up and early for a road trip and my second Home Opener in as many days.

4-4-12 PNC Park Open Workout

You may recall, I blogged that the Pirates were having a pre-Opening day workout and batting practice.  I blogged about it here.

Initially, I thought that it would be for season ticket holders only, as the email was sent under the guise of ‘SEASON TICKET HOLDER NEWS,’ but alas, it was free and open to the public, so it turned into what I would liken to a Kids Sunday game.

I had to work until 2:35, so I didn’t even get down to the park until sometime after 3.

The Pirates didn’t start hitting until after 4, so there was time to talk to Olivia for a bit.


And check out a few minor changes.  Diamond Pizza put a sitting area outside on the concourse beneath the left field GA bleachers.

And a video game station has been installed under the left field bleachers – moved from behind section 101 which is going to be a fancy bar.

When the Pirates started hitting, a ball rolled near the bullpen door, so I went to glove trick it.  It was going to be nice to be on the board.  However, as soon as I took my glove out, a supervisor raced over and told me that it wasn’t allowed.  I have done the glove trick without incident since 2009 at PNC Park, so this was deflating.  I snagged 89 balls last year with the glove trick alone, so my stats may take a big hit this year.  Later on, I watched as the same supervisor (whom I have never seen before, I should also mention- all of the supervisors from last year where great)  raced for and scrummed a ball, which I thought wasn’t right – he gave it away, but still.

I got shut out for a long time, which was frustrating.  There were no ushers working today, so lots of fans were standing on bleachers and sitting on seat backs, which is far more dangerous than me lowering my glove 6 feet.

So, overall, the whole thing was a disappointment.

I ended up moving towards the bullpen where it was more empty, and I came up with a Casey McGehee ball.  It bounced into the seats and took a generous roll right to me.  I just had to pick it up underneath the bleacher as fans from all directions closed in.

I should also mention that I have never seen such aggression from fans in the stands at PNC Park.  There were people diving on concrete, diving up the stairs for balls, etc.

Another disappointment was that all of center field and right field was off limits.  Boo!  So when Pedro Alvarez was up, I just watched helplessly as he peppered the center field seats.

By the way, how much longer does Pedro get before the Pirates ship him out to the minors?  His spring was awful.  He strikes out 1 out of 3 plate appearances.  If Matt Hague hits, I could really see Pedro as the odd man out and Hague could be in the 1B/3B platoon mix rather than being a bench player.

Anyhow, I got another ball from Jeff Karstens near the end of BP.  Karstens flipped it to some kids in the front row, who fought over it and totally missed it.  The ball bounced to me a few rows back.  I picked it up, and gave it to the girl in the pink:

That was a lucky toss up, it was hard to get any players attention during BP because any time they shagged a ball a chorus of ‘HERE HERE HERE HERE’ rang out from the front row.

At 4:40, the Pirates stopped hitting, and the supervisors shooed everyone out of left field, telling the fans that the Phillies had opted for a closed practice.  Thanks Charlie Manuel.

Rather than stand on the Riverwalk outside the stadium while the numerous Phillies lefties hit, we left.

Here’s today’s first baseball:

There’s only one pictured, because I gave the Karstens ball away.

A crappy start to the 2012 season for sure.  Hopefully things will pick up, next week at this time, I will have attended 8 MLB games if my plans/ambitions hold.

2012 Statistics:
Game: 2 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 2 balls
Games: 1 games
Average: 2.00 per game
Career: 1,546 balls

2012 by stadium:
PNC Park: 2 balls in 1 game (1,157 total in PNC career)

A Stroll Around PNC Park

I went to PNC Park yesterday with Amy and Olivia.  Amy had an orientation for the 2012 season, and Olivia and I walked around the exterior of the stadium, and took note of what subtle changes we could see.  In two days, this place is going to be packed, but today, it was a ghost town.

We began at the corner of Federal Street and General Robinson and walked towards the Clemente bridge.  The Pirates main offices are located there on the right:

We stopped at the Center Field gate and peered in, but there wasn’t much to see.  It looked like it does on Sunday mornings when there is no BP.

The Clemente Bridge was a sight for sore eyes.  Beside proposing to Amy on it on Valentine’s Day, it’s also the place of many pre-game throwing sessions with fellow ballhawks.

Did you notice all of the leaves on the trees?  The tulips are in full bloom too.

By the way, while we’re talking about trees… Check out the General Robinson side of PNC Park.

All of those trees, every one, is DEAD.  I thought for sure they would be replaced after last year.  Am I the only one that has noticed?  They are decaying, moldy, and all obviously dead and dried out.

Anyhow, Olivia and I made our way to the left field gate and peered in.

It looks pretty much the same except for a large Rally Pass booth.  In 2012, when you spin the prize wheel, you’ll pick your prizes up right there.  No more walking over to section 101 to get your prize.  That area has been made into a bar.  You’ll really notice it when you walk up the stairs from the Clemente Wall area to the main concourse.  The open air above your heads on the stairs is now covered by a floor which makes up most of the bar.

Also, the Pirates, replaced an old crappy bland scoreboard that announced upcoming games with a more classy looking ‘Home of the Pirates’ sign above the Center Field / Clemente statue gate:

It was time to go down to the Riverwalk.

Oh wait, it was closed.

Oh well, we went down anyhow.

But the riverwalk really was closed.  Fences had been erected in the spot where PNC ballhawks usually do pre-BP ballhawking, waiting for balls to bounce out:

The fences were put in place because the riverwalk was being replaced.  New cement slabs were being put in.

We walked back, took in the Clemente bridge from below:

And walked across the Clemente bridge to get a better view of the stadium:

One thing that you may not be able to tell in the picture above is that the tops of all of the trees in the picnic area and along the riverwalk for that matter had been cut off:

This was done undoubtedly to keep the city skyline unobstructed.

We walked back and around to the Mazeroski statue,

and passed the right field garages which were all opened and reeked of smoke.

There had been a fire in the laundry room.  Cleaners had washed mop heads and dryer sheets and a fire broke out.  There were charred uniforms in the garage.  The uniforms were for workers, chefs and the like – I didn’t see any player uniforms that were burned.  I learned all of this from a boss who was on his cell phone talking about the insurance, and that they had a $100,000 deductible, and that they were having a fire restoration team come in, yadda yadda yadda.

It was nice to be back at the park after months away.

There’s only 2 more days until Opening Day, and tomorrow there is an Opening Day ‘preview’ batting practice, so I should be snagging my first baseball of the 2012 season sometime tomorrow afternoon.  Check back soon!  And also, you have until Sunday to win a Justin Morneau shirt!

WordPress App

As a big time smartphone user, I wanted to let my fellow bloggers know about a cool app that I’ve been using a lot recently.  It’s the WordPress app, and it makes running and updating your blog a lot easier.

Let’s say you want to edit a blog entry because you made a mistake.  Or, you could even be at a ballgame and editing/updating your blog as the action is unfolding in front of you.  You just have to click the entry you want to work on, and from there it’s easy.

Simply type away, like you would do if you were at a keyboard.  You can do pretty much everything that you could do on a computer, even put in pictures and all that jazz.  If you have an Iphone 4S, you can just dictate your text and the phone will do everything for you.

One of the chores of running a blog is keeping up with the comments.  Its really tough to write daily and respond to comments all the time, and lots of time, comments need to be approved if the commenter is posting from a new IP address or is a first time commenter.  You can easily read and respond to all comments on this app too:

The other thing I love about this app is the ability to monitor your site stats.  Sure, you can do it on the computer too, but if you just want to do a quick check of how your blog is faring , just click the stats in the toolbar at the bottom.

You can see monthly:

Weekly (runs Monday to Sunday on the app):

Daily:

You can also see you daily views as numerical data:

You can also see what your most popular posts have been over the past 7 days.  For me, my divisional previews have been big time view builders for a few weeks now:

You can also check out your referrers to see what sites are sending your blog traffic, as well as what search terms people are using to land on your blog.

It’s a useful too, so if you’re a blogger, I suggest you check it out.

There’s only 5 more days until Opening Day.  Wow.  It’s the end of March.  Time has flown.  Tomorrow I’ll be giving away this Andrew McCutchen shirt, and I’m thinking about doing a tournament to give it away.  Check back for details soon!

By the way, the Opening Day forecast is looking good.  It’ll likely be a bit chilly during BP, but I’ll take it if there’s no rain:

Shirt Contest: The Glove Trick

I assembled my glove trick today.

It’s the first time that I put the glove trick together since I had my glove redone this winter. The tape was used to tape the pen to a strap on the glove so it won’t fall out on the field. The pen holds the glove open. The rubber band holds the ball in place.

Amy, Olivia and I went to a deserted mall parking lot and I placed five balls on the ground. I then went up to the second level of the parking garage. From a height of about twenty feet, I glove tricked the five balls.

The height is way more challenging than the six foot wall at PNC Park. There was a wind to deal with today too, of about 15 mph. This was my first practice with the glove trick since the end of 2011.

Your challenge is this:

Guess how long it took to glove trick all 5 balls. You guesses should be in intervals of 5 seconds. For example, a guess could be 0:05, and that’s all you’d have to post in the comments.
I will also give each commenter 2 guesses. You can use both right away, or be strategic and save one or both for later, as I will close this contest after the FIRST CORRECT ANSWER.

I will then post the video for your entertainment and proof.

The winner gets this shirt:

Its never been worn, its one of the many free shirt giveaways from PNC Park that I got in 2011. It’s a size XL, but the PNC park giveaway shirts wear about a size small, so it fits almost like a large.

Good luck!

Contest closed. Here’s the video:

I’ve determined that the official time is 5:05.

I’ve got to get to bed, so I’ll comb through the responses, do the math, see who’s closest,  announce the winner, and email them tomorrow.

Goodnight all.

8 Days til Opening Day Contest: Guess how many HR

If you read this blog regularly during the baseball season, you often only read about my glove work and snagging. That’s only part of what I love about baseball. I also love hitting. Ever since I was little I loved hitting, I would often go to an empty field and hit off of a tee or throw balls up and hit them just to practice my swing and try to hit balls over fences. Hitting home runs is something I’ve always enjoyed.

Today was a rather nice day in the Pittsburgh area, so Amy, Olivia and I headed to a park.

I brought along my bat and 17 baseballs to practice my home run swing and try and hit some deep flies. I did ok in the first round until I tweaked my back because my front foot slid while I was swinging, thanks to a ridiculously wet infield.

I was still able to swing ok with just a little discomfort, so I decided to continue with my hitting.

The field that I hit at is a large space where three little league fields converge. I moved to the right field corner of this field to hit with the intent of hitting the balls over the backstop and dugout opposite me on the third baseline:

This was the view that I was looking at:

I stationed Amy ( who was holding our daughter Olivia) on the hill up above the dugout. I made sure that she was about 400 feet away or so and out of the range of getting drilled with a baseball. I then asked her to film me hitting my 17 baseballs.

This is the view from the fence that I was trying to hit it over. I stood at the base of the right field score board.

I measured the distance to be 275 feet from where I was standing to the backstop.

The contest is this: Guess, by posting a comment, how many baseballs (0-17) I hit over the fence on the fly for home runs.

Let’s give you some biographical info so that you can make your best educated guess.
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 240 pounds
Bench press max: 285 pounds (I’ve been working on this all winter)
Bat Length: 33 inches
Bat Weight: 30 ounces
*Bat is BBCor standard.
If you need to see my swing, you can watch a video in this blog entry.

So, how many of the 17 balls ended up being home runs? Post your guess!

Contest overview:
-One guess per person
-There can be more than one winner.
-Guesses should be a number between 0-17.
-At the end of the contest, I will post a youtube video for you to watch the results – it’s under 5 minutes long.
-The winners will be contacted by me via email, so make sure the email you use when leaving a comment is current.
-If you won and you don’t get an email, check your spam folder.

So what will you win?

You’ll get an unopened pack of vintage baseball cards from 1985-1995, AND a Dave Matthews Band DVD. The DVD is not a copy, its an actual pressed DVD! Why? Because I love Dave Matthews Band too, not just baseball.

Leave a comment to enter!

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Here’s the video:  Remember, whoever guessed it dead on wins, if not, the next closest guess wins:
Count ’em up!  (You may want to make it full screen, I’m like a spec off in the distance)

I realize now it’s a little tough to tell.  I hit 12 out of 17 for homers.  Connor picked 13, Casey Ward 11, so you both win!  Check your email.