The 2009 season was my breakout year as a ballhawk. I started to be more aggressive in asking for balls from players, and chasing down batting practice home runs. In 2008, I was more or less a stationary ballhawk.
My 2008 stats can be found HERE.
On to the 2009 statistical breakdown:
- 81 games attended (including ten without batting practice)
- 6 stadiums 412 balls
- 5.09 balls per game
- Most balls at one game: 14
- Fewest balls at one game: 1
- 9 games with at least 10 balls
- 1 game ball (Laynce Nix foul ball)
BALLS BY MONTH:
April — 50
May — 88
June — 86
July — 14 (what?)
August — 99
September — 68
October — 7
BALLS BY SOURCE:
Thrown — 126
Hit — 168
Glove trick/Device — 69
Found (aka “Easter eggs”) — 49
BALLS BY PORTION OF THE DAY:
Batting practice/pregame– 390
During games (including thrown balls) — 18
After games — 4
BALLS BY STADIUM:
PNC Park — 286
Progressive Field — 85
Great American Ballpark — 15
Camden Yards — 13
Nationals Park — 11
Citizens Bank Park — 2
- 59 Games Attended
- 286 Balls
- 4.85 Balls per Game
- 20 Hit (2.03 per game)102 Thrown (1.73 per game)
- 42 Device (0.72 per game)
- 22 Found (0.37 per game)
- Game High = 14 balls (shares record with Nick Pelescak)
- 13 Games Attended
- 85 Balls
- 6.54 Balls per Game
- 26 Hit (2.00 per game)
- 15 Thrown (1.15 per game)
- 21 Device (1.62 per game)
- 23 Found (1.77 per game)
- Game High = 12 Balls
GREAT AMERICAN BALLPARK:
- 3 games attended
- 15 balls
- 5.0 balls per game
- 9 Hit (3.00 per game)
- 4 Thrown (1.33 per game)
- 0 Device (0.00 per game)
- 2 Found (0.67 per game)
- Game High = 7 Balls
- 4 games attended
- 13 balls
- 3.25 balls per game
- 8 Hit (2.00 per game)
- 3 Thrown (0.75 per game)
- 1 Device (0.25 per game)
- 1 Found (0.25 per game)
- Game High = 6 Balls
- 1 Games Attended
- 11 Balls
- 11.0 Balls per Game
- 4 Hit
- 2 Thrown
- 5 Device
- 0 Found
- Game High = 11 Balls
CITIZENS BANK PARK:
- 1 Game Attended
- 2 Balls
- 2.0 balls per game
- 1 Hit
- 0 Thrown
- 0 Device
- 1 Found
- Game High = 2 Balls
STADIUMS OUTSIDE OF PITTSBURGH:
- 22 games attended
- 126 balls
- 5.73 balls per game
- Most balls in one season season: 412
- Most balls in one season outside of Pittsburgh: 126
- Most balls at one game: 14
- Most balls at home stadium in one season (PNC Park): 286
- Most games in one season with 10 or more balls: 9
- Most batted balls caught in one game: 12 (6/13/09)
- Most thrown/toss up balls caught in one game: 9 (4/21/09)
- Most device balls from one game: 7 (8/11/09)
500th Ball of career (Shane Victorino HR)
- Snagging first career foul ball off the bat of Laynce Nix
- Playing catch with the Dodgers’ Ramon Troncoso for several minutes
- 578 balls
- 2 game balls
- 131 balls outside of Pittsburgh
- 6 major league stadiums with at least one ball
- 96 consecutive game streak (active) with at least one ball
- 156 games attended
- 3.71 balls per game lifetime average
Anyone care for a graph?
Here’s a chart tracking my struggle to maintain a 5.00 balls per game ratio. I ended at 5.09 with a strong September, despite floundering in the 4.70-4.80 range for most of the summer.
Tossing out the two stadiums (Citizens and Nationals) where I only attended one game,
my best stadium was Progressive Field, where I averaged 6.54 balls per game. Its a safe bet that I’ll be attending more than 13 games there in 2010.
My worst stadium was Camden Yards, where I averaged a meager 3.25 balls per game in 4 games, despite having early entrance tickets. I’ll try and focus more on Nationals Park in 2010 if planning a trip to the Baltimore/DC area.
At PNC Park, my home stadium, I put up a 4.85 average, which is respectable considering there were 8 non BP days included in the 59 games I attended there. I began to stay away though when batting practice was threatened, so as not to jeopardize my streak.
That streak now stands at 96 consecutive games with at least one ball.
The streak almost ended on NINE different occasions. Check out the entries from (click the date below):
September 6th, and
On each occasion I snagged only one ball.
On the other side of the coin, there were NINE different games where I snagged at least TEN baseballs. Comi
ng into 2009, my one game record stood at 7.
I’ll use these stats to come up with my 2010 goals. I’ll post an entry on that topic as we get a little closer to Spring Training.
I missed Monday’s and Tuesday’s games due to prior commitments. I was able to catch part of them on tv, and believe me, it was brutal. The crowds were as sparse as I had ever seen.
On Tuesday, fellow ballhawk league member and PNC Park ballhawk league member Nick Pelescak went on a rampage. He texted me to let me know that he had caught 11 balls during batting practice. The recognized official PNC Park record was 13 – set by me, back on June 13th 2009.
As the night went on, Nick would get a toss up ball during the game from Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Moss. It would come down to the players coming off of the field for Nick. Fortunately for him, Tim Tschida tossed him a ball as he walked off the field, giving Nick Pelescak the new PNC Park ballhawk record of 14 balls snagged in one game. After just three months, my name had been erased from the record book.
I was glad for Nick – and was more motivated than ever to do my best to get the record back. Since about June 21st or so, around when the Indians/Pirates series began, I have put myself through a rigorous workout schedule. Every other day I lift weights – on the off days, I run three miles.
Today, I would forego my fitness and wellbeing to stay for the entire game, and maybe, just maybe, get that record back.
Around 2:45 PM, it started to rain hard, so I was about 95% sure that batting practice would be cancelled. At 3:30, I got a text from Nick saying the tarp was on the field. I decided that maybe I could get three balls today from pitchers and what not – and that would be a good day.
I arrived at the stadium a little after 4 PM, and faced no traffic at all on the way in. Pittsburgh is officially a ghost town for the next three days. The G20 summit is here, and it has basically transformed Pittsburgh into a military state.
I went down to the riverwalk to wait for Brandon Moss, Garrett Jones, or Ryan Doumit to send one out of the stadium. Usually, the riverwalk is bustling with people. Typically, I am asked no less than 50 times, “What are you doing? Trying to get a ball? Do they ever come out here? How many came out today? What happens if it goes in the river?”
There were military choppers flying over every so often.
And to my right.
Lots of room to run. Sometimes on Saturdays it can get quite crowded for BP, since there’s very few rows. On days like this however – there’s plenty of room to roam.
I got ball #8 in Phillips’ next round of BP. He launched a home run that hit half way up the rotunda facade. Typically, I would just stand and watch the ball, since it was directly down the line. Since no one was here, I ran over towards where the ball was going to hit – just in case of a crazy bounce. The ball would take a huge hop off of the rotunda, and fall in Section 133, where it would roll slowly down the steps up against the green wall in the picture below. I was able to pick it up.
It was about 5:45, and I had snagged 8 balls already…
However, I would get shut out for the rest of BP. I made a bad choice on two consecutive groups. I stayed in left field when there were two powerful lefties peppering the seats with homers. Then, I went over to center field for the last group, but got shut out there as well.
I decided that my new goal would be to put up double digits.
I got ball #9 in the first inning from Andrew McCutchen.
It was rather funny. Andrew finished throwing with Brandon Moss and turned to throw the ball into the center field seats. He stopped and laughed, almost as if he was thinking, “These guys again?” It was basically us four ballhawks that he sees all the time. He paused and looked at us, and then threw me the ball in Section 139. He has probably seen me the least, since I don’t typically stick around for the games.
Speaking of center field, look how unbelievably empty it was?
Thank you G20 and the Pittsburgh Media for scaring everyone away from Pittsburgh. And yes, those pictures were actually taken DURING the game!
I would try every inning for another warm up ball from an outfielder so I could record a double digit game. In the second inning, Nick caught Moss’ warm up ball.
In the third, I went back to center field, but changed my appearance, taking off my Pirates Tshirt and wearing my black under armor compression shirt. I also put on some ugly visor I had won after BP. I was hoping he wouldn’t recognize me and throw me another ball. No luck.
In the fourth, Moss threw his ball to an older ballhawk on the right field wall who misplayed it, and the ball bounced into a teenager’s hand.
In the fifth, I tried again with my altered appearance, but McCutchen threw it to some girl.
The sixth inning rolled around, and I was the only person that stood up for Moss when he looked for someone to throw it to. It helped that there were maybe 20 people sitting on the entire right field wall. After scanning the crowd, he tossed me ball #10.
Thank you Brandon!
I kept playing for more toss up balls in every inning. In the ninth, with my altered image, I was able to trick McCutchen into throwing me another one. I doubt he recognized that I was the same guy who he threw a ball to in the first inning. He lobbed it up, and I took a few steps to my right and made the catch. It was ball #11.
After catching each warm up ball, I switched the ball with an extra ball I had brought from home. In the past, I had been given guff by ushers or non friendly season ticket holders for catching too many outfield warm up balls. Now, I make sure that I hand the “decoy” balls to a little kid right in front of an usher or supervisors. I’m hoping they’ll think, “That guy’s alright.” I’ve got a whole box of them at home. They are balls given to me by friends who agreed in the past to pay for their tickets to games with the balls they’ve caught. Those balls obviously aren’t marked and don’t count in my stats. Their sole purpose is to use to give away.
After getting McCutchen’s warm up ball, smoothing keeping it in my glove, while slipping the decoy ball out of my pocket and tossing it to a kid, I left the outfield with Nick to go to the dugout area. On our way towards the main concourse we were stopped by a kind usher. He told me something along the lines about how nice it was that I gave a ball to a kid and offered me a ball. Of course I took it. It counts. An usher is a paid employee of the Pirates, not a fan, and balls given away by ushers, trainers, security guards count. It was ball #12. He told me that he had retrieved the ball from center field earlier and that it had gotten soaked when it rained earlier this morning. The ball was certainly heavy, so I put it in my bag, and will hold off on numbering it until it dries out.
Nick was with me and noted, “You’re only two away now.”
I would need a miracle.
Enter Jayson Nix.
I sat down in the box seats and waited for the game to end.
Nix would foul off a 1-0 pitch from Virgil Vazquez that would land in an aisle of the Lexus Club seats.
As soon as the ball was hit, I was off. The ball bounced off the concrete, and took a high hop in the air. I was closing in on the ball and reached out and caught the ball out of the air. It was my first career foul ball, and my first game ball of 2009.
Not only that, but it was my 13th ball of the game.
Even more, it was my 200th hit ball snagged of 2009.
Guess what else? Remember Nick Pelescak? Guess who hit his first career foul ball which he caught earlier in the season? Yeah, Laynce Nix. And who’s PNC Park single ball record was I chasing? Nick Pelescak’s. Somehow fate had taken over.
Here’s a shot from Reds TV of where the ball landed. I’m wearing the black under armor shirt with my hat on backwards:
And a shot from FSN Pittsburgh, as I’m reaching out to make the catch:
I just needed to get a ball from Bob Davidson, and I would have my name back in the PNC Park record book, sharing Nick’s record.
The Pirates would go on to lose the game, and I tried my best to get Davidson to toss me a ball. He looked directly at me, but tossed four balls to other kids.
I quickly ran over to the Pirates dugout to try and get a ball from someone.
I waited for the Pirates bullpen pitchers to come in. Only Matt Capps had a ball, and he tossed it to a little kid.
All of the players had exited the field.
All of the fans had left the stadium.
A security guard came over and told me I had to leave. However, I noticed that Herbie Andrade, the bullpen catcher, still hadn’t come in. I bargained with the security guard to just let me wait for “that player,” and then I would be gone.
Herbie walked slowly in, lugging a huge bag of equipment over one shoulder, and carrying another burdonsome bag in the other.
The entire stadium was basically empty now, except for me (standing in the front row above the tunnel), and Nick, who was standing a few rows behind me.
Herbie probably wondered, “What the F is wrong with these guys?”
I felt awkward, so I spoke to him in Spanish.
“Tienes algunas pelotas extras para mi, Herbie?”
He paused and fumbled around with the bags. Noticing that he was going to give me a ball, I continued, “Muchisimas Gracias. Eres el hombre.”
He the tossed me ball #14. I bid him farewell with, “Hasta manana.” Seriously, Herbie is an awesome guy.
My friend Nick couldn’t believe my luck. Within 1 inning, from the beginning of the 9th to the end of the game, I had snagged four balls.
I wanted one more shot at snagging a ball. There was only one place to go.
Outside to the tall grass that was buzzing with insects.
I stomped around hoping to step on a ball.
I continued to search.
After about 10 minutes of searching, fearing I would be arrested as a suspected g20 terrorist, and feeling bugs crawling on my legs, I relented.
Did the thought of jumping into the river and swimming 17 feet down, feeling around for a ball, and grabbing it to get 15 for the night cross my mind? Yes.
Did I jump in the river and actually try it? No.
Nick and I would share the PNC Park record of 14.
Here’s today’s PNC Park record tying and personal best baseballs:
And the sweet spots: (the usher ball is not numbered yet because it is soaked):
And a look at my first career foul ball snagged, and first game ball of 2009:
Game: 14 balls (8 hit, 6 thrown)
Season: 375 balls (200 hit, 112 thrown, 63 device)
Games: 76 games (8 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.93 balls per game
Career: 541 balls
Streak: 91 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance: 15,980 (couldn’t have been more than 2,000-3,000 that actually showed)
Race for 400 in 2009: Need 25 in 5 games, 5.0 per game (This could be do-able…)
I decided to make the trip back to Cleveland for the second consecutive day. The previous day, I had snagged twelve baseballs. However, today, I would struggle a bit.
I was the first one in line, and therefore was the first fan into the seats. I immediately started looking for Easter Eggs. Usually, the seats are littered with baseballs. Not today. Not a single Easter Egg anywhere. Either an usher or employee had picked them all up, or the Indians did not take their customary early cuts in batting practice.
I would have to try and earn some the old fashioned way.
I had my first chance at a ball that landed a few seats away from me. I was moving toward the ball, but wasn’t fast enough to get to the spot before it landed. The ball hit off of a chair and popped straight up in the air. I started to reach up to grab the ball barehanded when some teenager a row up from me appeared seemingly out of thin air, and jumped to grab the ball just as it was about to land into my outstretched hand. I was pretty mad with myself.
Later, another home run was hit, and I scurried over to the spot. The ball landed in an empty row behind me, so I bent down to scoop the ball up with my glove. Never pick up a ball with your glove. The ball was firmly in my glove, and I had begun to lift it up, when a man grabbed onto my glove and ripped the ball out of it. I glared at him and said, “Wow, are you serious?”
Apparently not, because he immediately tossed me the ball. I don’t know if he had done it was a joke or what. Then I had to deliberate whether or not to count the ball in my collection.
Any ball tossed to me or given to me by a fan does not count. I eventually decided that since I had clear possession of the ball first, it would count. I further concluded had the man snatched the ball from me and not given it back, I still would’ve counted it. It was not a great way to get ball #1, and I needed to get more.
I continued to try and get batted balls in the right field/center field seats.
Balls just weren’t coming at me today. To make matters worse, the Indians portion of batting practice was just about over, and the seats were getting cluttered with fans.
There weren’t many fans, just enough to block up every one of the first 10-15 rows, thereby limiting my range.
Game: 4 balls (1 hit, 3 device)
Season: 279 balls (142 hit, 85 thrown, 52 device)
Games: 58 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.81 balls per game
Career: 445 balls
Streak: 73 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Today was a weird and unconventional snagging day. I would catch zero balls off the bat, and only snag one ball thrown by a player. Yet, somehow I managed to break double digits.
I was the second one in line when I got to the gate. About fifteen minutes before the gates were to open, the old woman in front of me spared two of her friends, a father and his daughter, a little girl of about six years old. Little did I know that the daughter would go on to snag 12 balls of her own today, and assist me with three of my snags.
When the gates opened, I ran in to the bleachers and immediately found ball #1 about six rows back. I continued towards the visitor bullpen, and found ball #2 sitting in an aisle seat. I continued on towards the visitor bullpen and found ball #3 lying in the front row.
I wasn’t done searching. I walked over to the Indians bullpen and saw a ball laying in the front row. There were people standing in front of it, but hadn’t noticed it laying underneath the chair behind them. I walked in the second row, bent down, and picked up ball #4. It was extremely water-logged. I tried to write ‘433’ on it, but it was just too wet. I’ll have to wait until it dries out to re-label the ball.
When I picked up ball #4, I immediately noticed ball #5, which was about fifteen feet out, on top of the Indians bullpen.
I went to work. I tossed my glove out and pulled it in, knocking the ball a good ten feet or so closer. I took out my ‘Cleveland Stick,’ the collapsible six foot yard stick, and hooked the ball towards me. I reached over and grabbed the ball, for my fifth of the day. The father and daughter who were in line in front of me watched me make the snag.
After finding those first five balls, I tried to play for home run balls.
Game: 12 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 7 device)
Season: 275 balls (141 hit, 85 thrown, 49 device)
Games: 57 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.82 balls per game
Career: 441 balls
Streak: 72 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Since the Pirates are out of town for a week, and I’d like to snag my 500th career ball sometime in 2009, I decided that I needed to make a road trip or two this week. My first stop would be Camden Yards in Baltimore.
I attended this game with two friends, one of whom is in the ballhawk league (Andrew).
We arrived at 3:30 and got our tickets. There are two gates that open at 5:00. The Eutaw Street gate near the Babe Ruth statue…
And the one on the opposite end, nearest to the right field foul pole.
Which didn’t happen.
We stayed l
ong enough to watch all of the batters from each team hit, and then left the game early. We had a four hour + drive, and made it back home a bit after midnight.
Here are today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 3 balls (3 hit)
Season: 263 balls (137 hit, 84 thrown, 42 device)
Games: 56 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.70 balls per game
Career: 429 balls
Streak: 71 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I was interviewed recently by Alex Prewitt, a sports writer for USAToday. He came across this blog, and was intrigued about the Ballhawk League and ballhawking in general. I spoke with him by telephone for 40 minutes Sunday afternoon. He had lots of great questions, so I was really looking forward to the article.
The print version is a bit shorter than the online version.
To read the entire online version, click HERE.
There was some rain forecast for today, but when I arrived at the ballpark at 3:55, the sun was shining, and there were only a few measly clouds in the sky.
While standing in line, I noticed a Brewers fan who randomly had a MLB baseball. He didn’t have a glove or a bag or anything. He had just walked up from the Riverwalk area. Had he just gotten a ball out by the river? Possibly.
Rather than standing there, I decided to head down to the Allegheny River and see if I could get on the board before the gates even opened. There is some tall grass landscaping on a slope that leads down to a 20 foot wide walkway which borders the river. Occasionally balls will get stuck in there that get hit out of the stadium or bounce on the stadium. I looked, but found nothing.
I stood outside the stadium until 4:50, when I returned to line. There was only one ball that I saw that had a realistic chance. I caught it out of the corner of my eye and watched it hit the top of the Clemente wall and stay in the ballpark. Like clockwork, within a minute, an usher appeared and picked up the ball.
When I returned to the line at 4:50, it began to drizzle. Great. Just great.
The drizzle was persistant, and was rather annoying. I was worried that the groundscrew would put the tarp on the field and batting practice would be canceled. Luckily, this wasn’t the case. The rain was light enough that it allowed BP to continue.
I got ball #1 of the day from Joel Hanrahan. He fielded a ball, and didn’t throw it back towards the infield, so I stood in the front row with my glove up for about a minute. He finally decided he didn’t want the ball anymore, and fired it at me. It was a little high and away, but I was on the board.
I got ball #2 from Mike Defelice. I remembered Shawn from Milwaukee giving me the tip of calling him Deefer. It worked.
There wasn’t a ton of home runs hit. And its a shame too, because there weren’t many people there during the first 30 minutes of season ticket holder time only.
Game: 3 balls (1 hit, 2 thrown)
Season: 238 balls (125 hit, 78 thrown, 38 device)
Games: 49 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.86 balls per game
Career: 404 balls
Attendance: 11,471 (very April/May’ish attendance figure)
The Pirates are out of town until July 17th, which would mean 17 days without a baseball game for me. I decided to break up the drought by attending a game in Philadelphia.
I’d never been to a baseball game in Philly before, so I was interested to see what Citizens Bank Park had to offer.
I got to the stadium at 2:35, almost 2 full hours before the gates were to even open. I figured that I would give myself some extra time to account for traffic and to stop for lunch. (I ended up not stopping because my GPS directed me to a non-existent phantom Wendy’s. Frustrated, I decided to eat at the stadium.) I was there so early, that the parking attendant thought I worked at McFadden’s.
The first matter of business was to find an open ticket window and buy a ticket for today’s game. I walked past the first base entrance
then realized that the Reds had many more righties than lefties, and I’d have a better chance back in the packed left field seats.
Brandon Phillips put on a show in batting practice. One of his home runs came right to me, I was camped underneath it, ready to make the catch, when at the moment the ball was several feet from my glove, about 5 people’s arms slammed into mine. My arm moved, and the ball tipped off my glove. I didn’t get the ball. Fans in Philadelphia are much more agressive when it comes to going a
fter home run balls in batting practice than in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. In Pittsburgh, us ballhawks spread out and have our own little zones that we tend to stay in. We never run into each other or rob each other of home runs when another is camped under one. Next time I go to a game in Philly I’ll be prepared.
I was shut out for the rest of batting practice and ended with 2 baseballs.
I walked around the concourse. I liked how the Phillies post their line up on a large brick wall at the entrance to the left field gate:
The Phillies top 2 stars for my money:
The Liberty Bell (which gongs after a Phillies player goes deep):
Here was my view from my seat:
The Phillies would go on to knock out starter Johnny Cueto in the first inning and score an amazing 10 runs in the first inning. They would go on to win the game 22-1. I don’t think I’ve ever attended such a lopsided game.
I made my back to my hotel in Philadelphia. (Which didn’t have Internet). Ran a few miles on the treadmill in the fitness center, did 31 floors on a stairmaster, and went to bed.
I then disappeared for the next week (which is why its taken me a week to get this entry up) to the shore.
Game: 2 balls (2 hit)
Season: 226 balls (119 hit, 75 thrown, 32 device)
Games: 46 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.91 balls per game
Career: 392 balls
I decided to go to this game despite a gloomy forecast of rain throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
I had changed my mind several times about going. I had ultimately decided not to go, until the rain forecast changed from 60% chance to 50% chance at around 1PM.
Passing into Ohio, it was just overcast. Still no rain.
Game: 6 Balls (1 hit, 3 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 157 Balls (68 hit, 65 thrown, 24 device)
Games: 31 games (4 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.06 Balls per Game
Career: 323 Balls
After some deliberation, I decided to attend this game. The game was to begin at 6:05, an hour earlier than normal. Gates open on weekdays at 4:30 for 7:05 games, so I was expecting the gates to open at 3:30.
My wife and I got to Cleveland early, and picked up our tickets at the will call window around 3 and got in line at the gate. A girl came out and set everything up (tables, ropes, garbage cans, signs). She told some people that the gates were to open at 3:30. Yes!
Imagine my displeasure when the girl left to find the workers at 3:30 and returned with, “Uh, the gates aren’t opening until 4:30.”
I had to stand there, already in a bad mood, and listen to an autograph hound talk about his autograph exploits for an hour. He was talking obnoxiously loud. One of those people that wants everyone to hear his conversation.
Evan Longoria takes a big rip:
Carlos Pena takes a lead:
Today’s baseball(s): only one pictured because career ball #288 was given away.
Notice the nice scuffing from where it hit the concrete?
And the sweet spot:
Game: 2 Balls (1 hit, 1 device)
Season: 122 Balls (52 hit, 55 throw, 15 device)
Games: 25 Games (21 with BP, 4 without)
Average: 4.88 Balls per Game
Career: 288 Balls