It was a Saturday, so the gates open an extra half hour early. However, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it, as I didn’t get to snag a ball until 4:50. That was thrown by Alex Presley, pictured at right here:
My second ball of the day was a ground rule double that I snagged here:
A fan in the front row tried to knock it down, but they just slowed it down and it came right to me.
Ball #3 was a glove trick ball that I gave away to another ballhawk who hadn’t gotten one yet.
My fourth ball of the day was a clean catch of an Andrew McCutchen home run ball in section 136. I had to get up on the bleacher to make the catch.
When the Marlins came out, I changed into my Marlins gear and caught a John Buck home run on the fly.
My sixth ball of the day was retrieved using the Cleveland Stick. A ball had landed in the ivy on the ‘S’ in Pirates during the early portion of batting practice. As soon as the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over and knocked it out with the Cleveland stick, and reached in with my hand to pick it up. Pretty simple.
In the mean time, Burke Badenhop spotted me about eight rows back after I had snagged this ball and attempted to toss me a ball, but it ended up short. I could’ve still gotten it, but a younger ballhawk ran by and caught it two rows in front of me. Luckily, Badenhop had another ball in his back pocket that he tossed me for ball #7. This time his throw was right on the money.
My final ball of the day was a towering home run hit by Mike Cameron. I ran to my right, up some steps, and picked the only open row that was available to me and made the clean catch. I had to manuever amongst these stationary fans:
I ended up catching it in the eighth row behind the guy in the gray shirt.
After BP I left, as Amy and Olivia were at home waiting for me.
Game: 8 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 373 balls (158 hit, 79 thrown, 87 device, 49 found)
Games: 70 games
Career: 1,495 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 6
Needed to reach goal: 40 (6.7 per game)
After a poor performance on Sunday, I was hoping for some luck. It wouldn’t happen, at least not on the Riverwalk.
A ball flew out of the stadium about 100 feet to my left and landed in the river. The ball was very reachable with my water device, but the device failed. It never was able to scoop up the ball, and after a minute or two, the ball sank.
To make matters worse, as I was attempting to snag that ball from the river, a ball bounced out of the stadium right where I had been previously standing. It would’ve been an easy snag. That one ended up in the river, and sank to its final resting place in the depths of the murky Allegheny as well.
When the gates opened, I snagged ball #1 off the bat of Andrew McCutchen. It was a home run that landed in the front row near the bullpen. I ran over and picked it up, as the other ballhawks were searching for balls down by the left field foul pole. McCutchen was in the last Pirates group because he was given the day off from starting today, despite having an 11 game hitting streak, and being 6 for 12 lifetime against Mets starter Mike Pelfrey. Cutch would later enter the game late and single to extend his streak to twelve games.
A few minutes later, McCutchen hit an absolute blast more than half way up into the second deck of bleachers. I ran up and found it after a brief search for ball #2.
Ball #3 was glove tricked at the base of the wall in left field when the Mets were hitting, as the Pirates ran off the field at 5:05 again. Lame.
My fourth ball was tossed by Jason Pridie. I had asked him for a ball a few times earlier, and this time he tossed it high above the other fans right to me four rows back.
Ball #5 was glove tricked over by the bullpen.
My sixth ball was a home run hit by an unidentified Met. It landed in a small crowd of people and shot straight up in the air. I hopped up and snagged it.
Less than a minute later, I snagged ball #7 on the fly, on the run in section 134. It brought a few grumbles from the crowd, as the average fan doesn’t like seeing someone get more than one ball, especially in such a short span of time.
A minute after that, I snagged ball #8, which landed on the cross aisle in left field, bounced off the upper bleachers, and rolled to the railing separating the wheel chair section from the aisle, where I had been blocked off from getting up onto the cross aisle. I reached down and grabbed the ball.
Another ball was left unattended by the bullpen, so I went over and glove tricked that one for ball #9.
I then made my way over to right field and was able to snag a Daniel Murphy home run ball that landed in section 140. It hit near the top of section 140, and I snagged it as it trickled down a few rows right to me.
That was ball #10, making today a total success.
I would snag another ball, #11 of the day behind section 141. I caught it on the fly between the wall and the seats that you see here:
I had to jump for the ball, as the ball carried on me a little, and I was boxed in by the seats from behind.
Ball #12 came during the game and was thrown to me by Garrett Jones in the 5th inning. I picked a nice open space on the Clemente wall and got him to toss me his between inning warm up ball.
That would be the last ball I snagged today, as I spent the seventh inning with Amy on her break. She bought me this with her Pirates Bucks ($5 Gift Certificates that workers get every game):
It’s a therma base pullover – like what the players wear during BP when its chilly. I am lucky to have such a wonderful fiancee.
Game: 12 balls (7 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device)
Season: 218 balls (87 hit, 49 thrown, 56 device, 226 found)
Games: 36 games
Average: 6.06 balls per game
Career: 1,340 balls
It was a Sunday game, which was a day game following a night game, thereby decreasing the chances of batting practice.
I got to the stadium around 11AM, and saw no trace of the batting cage or screens. So, I hung out on the bridge for twenty minutes, where I could see directly into the park. I then left, resigned to the fact that there would be no batting practice. Coupled with 35,000 people at the game, it just wasn’t worth running around all game for a ball or two.
I started walking back to the car when I got a text from my fiancee Amy, who was working the game. She told me that they were wheeling out the screens and that batting practice would be on.
I jogged back to the park and made it into the left field bleachers by 11:35, 35 minutes after the gates had opened.
Only the Phillies would be hitting today.
And, it was packed.
The move paid off, as I caught a Ben Francisco home run ball on the fly here for ball #3:
I didn’t snag anything else until the 5th inning. A large group of people left the front row in center field, so I went down for a minute to give myself a chance at an Andrew McCutchen warm up ball. He fired a perfect strike to me, while I was on the phone with Amy, who I was meeting up with for some food on her break.
That would be my fourth and final ball of the day.
Game: 4 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 177 balls (67 hit, 40 thrown, 47 device, 23 found)
Games: 29 games
Average: 6.10 balls per game
Career: 1,299 balls
My day got off to a great start before the gates even opened. I spent 4:15-4:50 on the Riverwalk outside of the stadium. I did the same thing yesterday, but not even one ball came out.
Today, that would be different. I misplayed one ball that rather than knocking down with my body, I let hit the concrete to play it on a bounce. The ball took a gigantic hop and went right into the river.
The second ball I had a chance on, I made sure to knock the ball down with my body. It was another home run that ripped through a tree, hit me, and settled in the grass, where I smothered it. It was my first ball of the day. It all happened here.
A few minutes later, I cleanly snagged another home run ball on the fly as it one-bounced out of the stadium here:
When the gates opened, Ross Ohlendorf tossed me ball #3. Ross is probably the best BP shagger in the National League. He really hustles after everything.
My fourth and final ball of the Pirates BP was hit into the upper bleachers. I raced up and claimed it about six rows back.
When the Dodgers came out to hit, I was able to glove trick ball #5 here:
Then snagged a ground rule double here,
and was tipped off by the guy in the picture below about another glove trick opportunity, which I reeled in for ball #7.
I went over to right field at 5:30 to look for balls, but there were none. I looked down at section 139, and there was a ball literally at another ballhawk’s feet that he didn’t see. From the front row of the right field wall, it was unmistakeably white and round – an easter egg. I ran down and picked it up for ball #8. It was laying in a little bit of water here:
but it wasn’t completely soaked.
I stayed in center field as Andre Ethier was hitting. I was robbed twice, but managed to get my glove on one of his home runs that I momentarily dropped, but recovered to pick it up here:
I had to reach down and try and make a basket catch, and it hit the bulge of string that I keep in my glove and popped out. Luckily, no one else was in the area though to grab the misplayed ball.
I only needed one more ball for double digits. I still had twenty minutes of batting practice to get it, and Jay Gibbons, the Dodgers best BP hitter was up. I moved up to the steep Clemente wall, where Gibbons had routinely peppered hoome runs the past two days. He hit a home run to my right so I took off to make the catch. However, the right field wall has cupholders that are low to the ground.
I stumbled on one and went straight down, tumbling down into the row below.
I tried to use the seat below to break my fall, but my left arm basically went right through the folded up chair. I bashed the side of my lower left leg, hit the outer portion of my left bicep, and left thigh on the seats and arm rests. It hurt bad, but I popped right up as the ball was about ten feet away in the row I’d fallen into. However, some random guy hastily climbed over three rows and snatched it from me at the last second.
Minutes later the same damn thing happened again. Gibbons hit a home run, I tripped on a cupholder, and this time sort of rolled down into the second row. The ball actually tipped off my glove as I was falling. Again, a random gloveless fan picked it up.
Double digits just wasn’t to be.
I got shut out for the rest of batting practice. I decided that I needed to get 10, so rather than leaving after BP like I had originally planned. I stayed. I decided to get 10 out of the way before the game started, so I went to this building on top of the scoreboard area to claim an easter egg that had to have been thrown there by a player, because its too far to have been hit:
Well, the area was off limits, so I quickly went in, expecting to see a ladder or something on the other side. Instead, I saw this:
Bathrooms. Apparently there’s no possible way to get on top of that roof.
I waited around until the game started and was able to get Garrett Jones to toss me ball #10 after he warmed up before the second inning began.
I added ball #11 before the sixth began with Andrew McCutchen’s outfield warm up ball:
That was all for today. Double digits! A great day.
Here are today’s baseballs:
Game: 11 balls (5 hit, 3 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season: 113 balls (43 hit, 30 thrown, 24 device, 15 found)
Games: 18 games
Average: 6.28 balls per game
Career: 1,235 balls
Let’s get right to it.
My first two balls of the day were off the bat of Chris Snyder. The first was a home run that landed in section 133 near the foul pole.
There was no one there, so I simply had to run over and pick it up.
Snyder hit another ball that bounced over the fence. Several fans reacted to slow and deflected the ball right to me here:
At 5:30, I ran into the center field seats and found ball #1 laying in the front row, it was in the middle section here:
He didn’t hit nearly as many home runs as yesterday, but he did hit one home run that I chased down as it hit a seat a section away from me, and a few rows back:
That was it for batting practice. It was really lame. The Dodgers again, are the worst batting practice team I’ve seen all year.
During the game, I snagged Andrew McCutchen’s warm up ball before the first inning began. I stood in the third row, in the exact spot where the threw it yesterday, and he delivered a perfect strike to me. It was my fifth ball of the day.
That was it for my snagging. I was really tired, so I sat for much of the game. The Pirates ended up losing, knocking them back to .500 on the season at 18-18.
Game: 5 balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 1 found)
Season: 102 balls (38 hit, 27 thrown, 22 device, 14 found)
Games: 17 games
Average: 6.00 balls per game
Career: 1,224 balls
It was Easter Sunday, so a big crowd wasn’t going to be on hand, which was a bonus. However, the previous night’s game had ended around 11PM, and since today was a day game, the chances of batting practice were slim. Add to the fact that it had drizzled all morning, and there was virtually no chance of batting practice whatsoever.
I got to the ballpark at 11:05 AM, just in time to see three Pirates leaving the bullpen after a side session. Two of the folks at the bullpen fence had baseballs. I had missed an early opportunity.
PNC Park makes everyone stay on the Riverwalk for the first 30 minutes on Sundays, so there wasn’t too much to do. I noticed that someone doesn’t like Andrew McCutchen so much:
I met a couple ballhawks from Ohio. It was a father and son duo. They were friendly and snagged several balls of their own throughout the day.
I set up behind Sean Burnett throwing with Drew Storen. I got Sean Burnett to toss me my second ball of the day after they finished up.
I camped out near a third ball and waited patiently. I asked a coach for it, and he asked if I’d gotten a ball yet. Since it was Easter Sunday, I couldn’t lie. I told him I’d already got one today, but wouldn’t mind another. He threw the ball to another ballhawk, but I was hoping that it would give me some good karma.
After the Nationals were done, I walked around the park to take pictures and look for easter eggs.
Right Field Upper Deck:
Looking out towards the Point:
Abe was in the park, along with the other Nationals mascot Presidents.
Once the game started, I got Andrew McCutchen’s warm up ball in the first inning,
and Garrett Jones’ in the fourth.
That was pretty much it.
A few more random pictures:
Presidents vs Pierogis:
The Build a Bunny we got for our baby girl:
The sweatshirt Amy bought me:
And today’s four baseballs:
By the way, afterwards, we colored easter eggs:
Game: 4 balls (4 thrown)
Season: 65 balls (25 hit, 15 thrown, 16 device, 9 found)
Games: 10 games
Average: 6.50 balls per game
Career: 1,187 balls
2010 through 10 games: 69 balls (4 balls behind last year’s pace)
Unfortunately, I lost half of my pictures from the beginning of batting practice due to a malfunction of my camera. I must’ve left it on in my pocket, and when I went to take a picture half way through batting practice, it was in Chinese. The format option must’ve been pressed, and everything got erased from my camera.
So, ball #1 was a home run hit by Ryan Braun to the handicapped seats in left field. I jumped over a railing and picked it up for my first ball of the day.
My second ball was snagged in the ivy in center field.
Ryan Braun hit it there about 5:20, and I kept my eye on it the whole time, thinking it might be reachable. It was, and at 5:30 when the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over and grabbed it.
My third ball was pointed out to me by one of the ushers in center field. Both ushers in center field are really cool guys.
Ball #4 was fielded off the bat of Craig Counsell. I decided to head over to foul territory for a bit as there were three weak left handers up, and there was no screen protecting third base. I figured that they would try to go the other way a few times. The strategy paid off, as Counsell sliced a grounder right at me.
Ball #5 was a ground rule double off the bat of Wil Nieves. I chased it down and grabbed it with my barehand as the ball was rolling all over the place under the bleachers:
That was it for batting practice. Five baseballs. It was pretty disappointing, but the Brewers were focusing on a opposite field approach, perhaps expecting Paul Maholm to work them outside all night.
As for the game itself, I wandered around and took a picture from the upper deck during pregame.
Then I sat in the club section for a couple innings waiting for a foul ball that wouldn’t come.
I then returned to the outfield areas hoping to snag a warm up ball.
An inning later, I snagged Jose Tabata’s 8th inning warm up ball for ball #7.
The ball was bobbled by these college aged kids in the front row.
I seized the opportunity by snatching it with my glove as it was being dropped by one of them.
Season: 54 balls (21 hit, 11 thrown, 14 device, 8 found)
Games: 8 games
Average: 6.75 balls per game
Career: 1,176 balls
The 2011 is getting close, as my Season Tickets have arrived.
This year I will only hold season tickets to the Pirates. Last year, I was a 20 game Cleveland Indians season ticket holder, and a 13 game Cincinnati Reds season ticket holder. I decided not to renew either of those plans. I’ve also decreased my Pittsburgh Pirates season ticket account from three tickets per game to two tickets per game.
Here is the booklet cover design for the 2011 season:
The 2011 season tickets feature four players: Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata – the core four young players. I like the design. Last year’s featured Zach Duke, Charlie Morton, Andy LaRoche, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, and Ross Ohlendorf. Each player took up one ticket on an uncut sheet of six. The tickets looked good, but Andrew McCutchen was the only player that had a decent season of the six. Now, a look at the tickets:
Also, in the package was my 2011 Pirates season ticket card:
The card is key for me, as it allows for me to get in early for batting practice. I’ll need it, since I want to trade in many of my season tickets for give away games and use the free tickets that my girlfriend gets each game from the Pirates as my game entry tickets.
Also included was a letter from Frank Coonelly. Previous letters focused on all of the improvements that the team had made during the off-season. They often predicted a return to glory, etc. Well, coming off of a 105 loss season, this letter basically stated that we play the Orioles in Interleague play, and thank you for coming back.
Dear Erik Jabs,
Enclosed you will find your season tickets for the 2011 season. Opening Day is almost upon us and we are anxious to get the 2011 season started.
On behalf of the Pirates organization, I want to express our sincere thanks for your support. Your loyalty to and faith in the organization make every member of the Club even more determined to perform at a very high level, both on the field and in every other aspect of our relationship to you. You deserve nothing less from us.
As you know, we have an outstanding home schedule this season, including Interleague series against the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. In addition, we have many terrific promotions on the schedule in 2011, highlighted by the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1971 World Series Championship when we host another exciting Interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday June 21st.
As always, if you have any questions about your tickets, your account or anything as it related to the Pirates, please do not hesitate to contact your account representative.
Again, thank you for choosing to get on board for the 2011 season of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball, and I look forward to seeing you at PNC Park on Thursday April 7th at 1:35 pm for the Home Opener against the Colorado Rockies.
The letter barely makes me excited for the outlook of the team for the 2011 season. I am very excited though, as I am planning on attending many games at PNC Park again this year, as well as making road trips to Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee, with possibly a few more cities.
Spring Training coming up soon for me…
We were back at Piratefest on Sunday for the third and final day of the three day weekend baseball event. The Pirates had sent me six tickets, so I sold two, used two on Friday, and saved the last two for today.
Before heading to Piratefest, I was treated to breakfast at a restaurant named DeLuca’s in the Strip District.
I had never been to DeLuca’s let alone the strip district, so this was a nice little adventure for me. DeLuca’s proclaims to have the ‘Best Breakfast in Town,’ and the large line that was waiting outside in the cold drizzle.
We waited for about twenty minutes before getting into the small, packed restaurant. One of the restaurant’s claim to fame is being featured on the Man vs Food series.
We had pancakes…
Chocolate strawberry pancakes for her:
And blueberry pancakes for me:
I also had a side of sweet sausage, which tasted much better than it looked.
The food was great, and it filled me up until 5 PM. I wasn’t crazy about the interior Steeler decorating, especially after being hassled at every corner by street vendors selling Steeler pennants and buttons. I’m looking forward to the Super Bowl being over so this town settles down.
When we got to the David L Lawrence Convention Center around 11:40, twenty minutes before the doors were to open, we were greeted by a monstrous line that snaked around and to the back of the convention center.
It took us about 10 minutes after the gates opened to finally get into Piratefest.
When we entered, we headed over to the MVP Zone to get autographs from Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf.
I had Ross sign my calendar since he signed a ball for me yesterday. Paul Maholm also signed a ball. Interestingly, he dropped the number 28 from his signature (the other 3 signatures on balls I have from Paul have a 28) – perhaps he expects to be traded in the coming months. He is in the final year of a contract, although the Pirates hold an option for 2012, which most certainly will be turned down since its for $9.75 million.
Later in the MVP Zone (which is for Season Ticket Holders only) we had Jose Tabata sign a baseball,
along with 1991 National League Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek.
Drabek was probably my second favorite Pirate of the 1990-1992 teams, with Andy Van Slyke being the first.
The MVP Zone is one of the nice perks of being a season ticket holder. Season Ticket Holders can get autographs there without waiting an average of 90 minutes on the other side of the Convention Center. The same players come over to the MVP Zone throughout the day either before or after they are done signing for the general public.
Good (Season Ticket Holder autograph lines):
Bad (everyone else):
The other autograph that I got today was Andrew McCutchen. We were allowed two autographs per person, so I had him sign a baseball and a Canvas Photo Wrap that I had won earlier in the day.
We didn’t play many games because the lines were ridiculously long. I didn’t really see the point of standing in line for 30 minutes to spin a wheel and win some give away stuff that I already have at home.
We caught some of the entertainment at the Piratefest stage:
There was Deal or No Deal:
More Minute to Win It, this time with Paul Maholm:
and Family Feud with the “Maholm Family” pitted against the “Morton Family.”
It was Paul Maholm vs Charlie Morton, and each player had 3 other fans assigned to his ‘family.’ The questions were related to the Pirates or Pittsburgh, and season ticket holders were those surveyed to provide the results for the game.
Here’s a video of a round of it:
That was basically it for the day. Got a few autographs, walked around, played a couple games at the beginning of the day before the crowd swelled, and watched some games at the Piratefest stage.
The Pirates set an all time record for the Piratefest weekend, drawing 16,839 fans, which was an increase of 1,400 over last year. The thing is, this is my fifth year as a season ticket holder, and every other year, I only received two free tickets to Piratefest. This year, I was given six. I saw some fans giving away their passes at the door. Therefore, I believe that the numbers are ‘juiced’ by the flood of free tickets that were distributed to the fan base. Yes, there’s some reason to be excited, but a 105 loss team doesn’t just draw an all time record to its Fanfest. Does anyone expect the Pirates to even approach their 2001 attendance home figure of 33,000 per game? No.
The real test of how excited this town really is about Pirates baseball will be the home attendance. We’ll see how many folks show up. By the way, the Pirates raised ticket prices for the first time in nine years this week. Season Ticket and advance purchased tickets will stay the same, but tickets purchased on the day of the game will be about an average of $3 more.
I’m hoping that attendance stays low, at least for batting practice, so it makes collecting baseballs easier, but we’ll see.
Spring Training is just around the corner. Get ready.
The Pirates’ Winter Caravan, which is a series of stops leading up the Piratefest, rolled into Dick’s Sporting Good in Tarentum PA on Tuesday.
Andrew McCutchen, Evan Meek and Ross Ohlendorf were the Pirates’ players in this Caravan Group.
We arrived at 6:05 and got into the already lengthy line.
The players sat down around 6:15 and began signing player cards to give away to fans.
Around 6:25 or so, Pirates color commentator Bob Walk addressed the crowd. It was rather bush league that he wasn’t even given a microphone. This Dick’s Sporting Goods was very under prepared. Last year at the Dick’s Sporting Goods in Washington, the Pirates were welcomed with music and a video board which was dedicated the Pirates behind the players. This Dick’s couldn’t even provide a mic.
Here’s some of Bob Walk’s speech from my vantage point in line:
After about an hour or so in line, we finally got up to the table.
Evan Meek recognized me immediately from ballhawking and asked me how many baseballs I ended the season with and if I had won the ballhawking league. He brought Ross Ohlendorf into the conversation also. Ross asked me who the most graceful shagger during BP was. I told him that he definitely gives the most effort. Ross goes all out in BP making full out running catches.
I didn’t talk to Andrew McCutchen. I had him sign a baseball but that was it. He seemed like he didn’t really want to be there. If you watch the below video at 39 seconds, you’ll see him blatantly and impatiently rolling his eyes as he waits for a fan to move from Ohlendorf to him.
That was pretty much it. We each got three balls signed and then headed off into the mall to walk around for a bit. The highlight of the rest of the night was watching dogs try to figure out a way around their barrier in the pet store:
and playing with a little dog.
We were tempted to get him, but didn’t.
This would be the only stop for me on the Pirates Winter Caravan. I’ve been kind of out of the loop about stuff going on this winter and actually went to Uniontown to see the Pirates, but went on the WRONG DAY! So, we drove for about an hour for nothing. I got confused because I looked at the schedule about a week before. It was so embarrassing. It wasn’t a wasted trip though.
Of course, much to the dismay of others, I just had to go down to the bottom of the falls, thereby risking falling just to take a couple videos of the falls.
We checked out a couple other parts of the park before calling it a day.
My next baseball related event will be at Piratefest this weekend. Check back for that.