I had been in a slump over the past two days, botching or missing opportunities on 9 balls. Usually, when players go into slumps, they break out of it in a big way. That’s what happened to me today.
I was the first one into the bleacher area. I was looking for Easter Eggs, but couldn’t find any. Just then, I noticed a ball roll into foul territory and up against the fence near the handicapped seats in foul territory.
As I got to the spot, I noticed a ball in this somewhat creepy hallway.
I quickly grabbed ball #1, caught a glimpse of something at the end of the hallway, and made my way to the field area to grab the ball that originally brought me into foul ground.
Someone had left this utility fence open,
After a few fly balls, he turned and flipped a ball, no-look style, into the crowd. Most of the people around didn’t see it at first. I did, and grabbed ball #10. Double digits. Ballpark domination.
I caught ball #11 on one of Van Slyke’s over hit fly balls. I had to stand up on a bleacher to catch the ball. I had tied my pe
Then, some d-bag came and said, “Alright, you’ve got your share. I’m going to shut you down. I need one for my son. See Jimmy, I’ve got him boxed out.” I just stared at the guy. He was some 5’7″ guy wearing a yellow Pirates shirt, and he didn’t even have a glove. I stared right at him. He had no chance against me. I’m 6’5″.
His son kept screaming, “Give me the ball!” I was hoping he wouldn’t get one.
Soon, Van Slyke over hit another ball. I didn’t have to move much, and caught the ball once again, with the assistance of standing on the bleacher, for ball #12.
I made sure to rub the ball up and carefully inspect it in front of the d-bag that was going to “shut me down.” He just looked and then moved around me to the other side that I had just caught the ball.
His son then got a ball from Joel Zumaya. It was an International League ball, a minor league ball. The kid started whining and complaining.
I stayed in this area for almost the entire batting practice. A few minutes later, Zumaya started trying to rob home runs. Van Slyke over hit another one. I was right there, catching ball #13 on the fly. At this point I could hear people around me whispering, “How many is that for that guy?”
Zumaya and Jackson took their home run robbing act a bit over into left field and away from the 410 sign near the bullpen, where I had just snagged those 4 balls. I was going to follow them, but it was insanely crowded.
Seriously, I’ve never seen a batting practice this crowded at PNC Park.
Not even on opening day was it this crowded during batting practice. I’m used to having an entire row open to my left and right, so I can have some range. There would be none of that today.
Batting practice ended a few minutes later. I tried to get balls during the game, but it wasn’t happening.
There was a near sell out crowd. Over 31,000 were in attendance.
The left field bleachers were packed.
The center field and right field seats were packed.
Heck, the whole stadium was packed.
Which is something we’re not used to here in Pittsburgh.
I left after the 5th inning to get some dessert for my wife and I.
Here’s a look at today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Top performances at PNC Park: (double digits)
1) 13 Erik J 6-13-09
2) 11 Erik J 4-21-09
2) 11 Matt G 9-20-08
3) 10 Bryan P 6-1-09?
3) 10 Erik J 5-5-09
Game: 13 Balls (12 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 174 Balls (84 hit, 67 thrown, 24 device)
Games: 33 Games (4 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.27 Balls per Game
Career: 340 Balls
Competition Factor: 408,343
Today was game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals featuring the Penguins vs the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, all the fans that weren’t able to get tickets to the game in Detroit seemingly decided to take the the 5 hour trip to see this baseball game. There were Detroit fans everywhere. Many of them were probably making the pilgrimage to see PNC Park for the first time, since its an interleague game, its not often that the Tigers come to Pittsburgh.
If today was a test of my ballhawking abilities, I would’ve failed. Despite being the first one into the bleacher area, I didn’t notice an Easter Egg that was right in front of my friggin face, I had two home run balls pop out of my glove, and I half heartedly went after a ball that ended up bouncing over the fence and skipped past my glove by about two feet. Had I actually gone for the ball, it would’ve been an easy catch. 4 balls – botched.
I did get one ball during the Pirates portion of batting practice. Craig Monroe hit a home run to my left that I could tell was going to be way over my head. I ran to my right and up the stairs under the bleachers. The ball bounced and hit off the concourse roof and settled near a garbage can. I reached down and grabbed ball #1.
Ball #2 came from an unknown Tigers batter. It was a deep fly ball that bounced on the warning track and right into my glove 4 rows back. I received a couple awkward high fives from Detroit fans, “That’s how we roll in Detroit,” some guy said. He must have thought I was from Detroit on account of my Tigers hat and shirt.
After misplaying two balls, I caught a Miguel Cabrera home run on the fly in the second row of section 136. I made sure that I squeezed ball #3 so it wouldn’t pop out.
That was all I got during batting practice. It was becoming annoying crowded.
To make matters worse, Andy Van Slyke was messing around the entire batting practice with the pitchers. He was hitting deep fly balls to the wall so that the pitchers could leap and make home run robbing catches. He must’ve hit 20 balls into the crowd. I’ve never seen anything so stupid and dangerous. Edwin Jackson, Joel Zumaya, and Dontrelle Willis were all taking turns risking their bodies and careers by jumping against the fence and robbing these home runs.
I tried to catch one for about 5 minutes, but I was too annoyed because it was real crowded around the area that Van Slyke was hitting to (left center field, near the bullpen). I was waiting for one of the pitchers to twist an ankle.
It was distracting because it was almost as if two batting practices were occurring simultaneously.
After batting practice ended, I didn’t get another ball until the 4th inning.
I sat on the right field wall for the first four innings.
Game: 4 Balls (3 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 161 Balls (72 hit, 66 thrown, 24 device)
Games: 32 games (4 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.03 Balls per Game
Career: 327 Balls
I’m in the midst of a stretch where both the Pirates and Indians are away for awhile, so I won’t be attending any more games any time soon. (Possibly one this weekend, but its a small chance). Since there is this lull, I’ve decided to blog a bit about baseball cards.
My obsession with baseball cards began in the spring of 1989. I had started to get into baseball in 1988, but baseball cards hadn’t taken ahold of me yet, until that fateful day at K-Mart. I was with a childhood friend, Nick Yakabishin. He was already a seasoned collector of cards. I remember Nick and I both getting a jumbo pack of 1989 Topps Cards.
Nick said that the goal was to find Pittsburgh Pirates cards, but that if I got an Andy Van Slyke, he “would die.” Andy Van Slyke was the most popular Pirate in the late 1980’s, and his cards were like gold to children. I watched Nick tear into his pack. He got a couple crappy Pirates like Dave LaPoint and Mike Dunne, but no Andy Van Slyke.
I then opened mine. I remember sniffing the gum and then chewing on it while I shuffled through the deck. Somewhere mid way through, there he was. A fresh, crisp 1989 Topps Andy Van Slyke card.
I started going crazy. My friend was happy for me, but jealous. He was shocked that I had found a Van Slyke card. I was hooked.
My obsession grew. I was most active in collecting cards up until about 1995. I continued to collect until college in 1999, when my interest waned.
Any time my parents would take my brother and I anywhere, picking up a pack of cards was a necessity. My brother was also obsessed with cards. We used to look forward to our trips to see our grandma in Connecticut because of a card shop that we considered the Mecca of all sporting good stores, Rock’s Sports Cards. I’m not sure if its still around anymore, but the place was great. My dad used to get annoyed because my brother and I would spend upwards of an hour there browsing and looking through all of the bargain bins.
At Christmas time, half of our gifts involved baseball or baseball cards. The first complete set I received was the 1989 Score set, during the Christmas of ’89. I would go on to put my first set together from cards pulled from packs in 1993 (Topps).
In late 1992 or thereabouts, the unthinkable happened. A man by the name of Dick Brown had purchased an old candy store and turned it into a Sports Cards store. He named it Discount Sports Cards. It became a daily destination for my brother, Joe, and I. We were his best customers and fondly called the store “Discount” amongst ourselves. The shop was located roughly about a mile away, and we would ride there on our bikes, buy grab bags (which he would put a few good singles and the rest filler cards), and look through the latest singles.
We would hold “card shows” in the back yard or in the living room, where we would all set up our cards to display for everyone to see. Usually, we ended up just buying each other cards, so it was basically trading.
I used to spend almost all of my disposable money on baseball cards. As a child, I never had much money, but when I could scrape together a buck or two, I was buying cards. How many cards do I have? I would estimate about 80,000. There’s boxes everywhere.
My most valuable card? I don’t have any super valuable ones. Possibly a 1962 Topps Stan Musial. It might be worth $100, maybe. I have a 1972 Hank Aaron. A 1992 Mariano Rivera Bowman Rookie Card. I don’t think any of them could sell much these days. The value of baseball cards plummeted.
My entire collection? Its probably not even worth that much. My cards mostly range from 1987-1995.
I remember being a Beckett Baseball Monthly subscriber and looking up my top cards each month to see if they’d “gone up” or “gone down.” The magazines are probably worth more than most of the cards now.
I remember my dad bought a 1990 Donruss set in 1990. Its still sealed and in the cellophane. “One day, this will be worth a lot of money,” he told us and my brother. Unfortunately, the baseball card bubble burst, and its worth less now than what he paid.
I remember my mom telling me about how she used to buy packs of cards in the late 50’s, early 60’s, just for the gum. I recall listening in horror as she described how one day my grandma threw all of her cards in the trash.
Baseball cards dominated my life in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s, as did my interest in baseball. I’m still interested in baseball, but no longer cards. Most companies have folded, like Fleer, Donruss, and Score. I believe only Topps and Upper Deck are still around.
My wife thinks I’m a weirdo because every time we go to Wal Mart, I have to walk past the Baseball card aisle to stop and stare. Some habits never die.
Did you collect cards? How many did you have? What got you hooked? What’s your best card?
With the Pirates on the road for a full week, I decided to add two games at Progressive Field. I checked the weather today and since the forecast was favorable, I hopped in my car and took the 2:15 drive to Cleveland.
Since it was Saturday, I had some things working against me:
1) Gates don’t open until 5:30 on weekends
2) Cliff Lee bobblehead day
3) The skies darkened up and it looked like it was going to storm.
When I arrived at Progressive Field around 4, the cage was set up, but I was afraid BP would be wiped out due to the menacing dark clouds. (The lights were on at the stadium).
I walked to the box office and bought the cheapest ticket I could, $9. I then made my way back to the right field gate. It was about 4:15, and a large crowd was gathering. I was about 15th in line. It turns out that there were hundreds of people there for faith night. They were going to hear testimony from Indians player Jamey Carroll.
Imagine my surprise when a supervisor announced that they would be opening the gates an hour early at 4:30! Thank you Jesus!
And stood in line for 10 minutes to buy a cheeseburger combo meal for $9.25.
When the game started I first sat by the foul pole in right field.
But eventually moved to the left field home run porch. Notice all of the fans are standing at the fence.
If a home run were hit, they would have a slim chance of catching it. I stood by the garbage cans, awaiting a home run that would never come.
The Tigers won the game 4-0.
A look at today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 5 Balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 89 Balls (35 hit, 44 thrown, 10 device)
Games: 17 Games (14 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.24 balls per game
Career: 255 Balls