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.
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.
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!
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.
The Baltimore Orioles are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards this year. Its a big season for the Orioles as they attempt to fight their way out of the cellar while celebrating the stadium that started the ballpark revolution of the 1990’s.
I did some poking around some websites and found some great pictures of Camden Yards as it was being built.
I hope you enjoy.
Also, I’ll be in Baltimore on opening day, in hopes of snagging one of these commemorative baseballs that the Orioles will be using this year:
Camden Yards looks like this now:
But it once was a pile of dirt
and a vacant warehouse that would be transformed into one of the most beautiful ballparks in the US.
Incorporating the B&O Warehouse, which was built in 1899, was a fantastic idea. It brought us back to the old days of baseball, where stadiums were built to fit into the surrounding neighborhoods.
Here’s the outer side of the B&O Warehouse, facing away from the stadium. Just ahead, you see the building that now houses the Babe Ruth museum.
The Warehouse sat dormant for over 20 years, rotting… until 1992.
That’s when the Orioles completely renovated it to house offices, a team store, restaurants, a ticket office, etc. What a view.
Here’s the foundation of where the center field seats would later be built:
The unfinished exterior of Camden Yards… (is that a real kid in the picture?)
Construction began in 1989
And it took 33 months of work to get the stadium completed.
It was built by HOK Sport, and was the first of the retro ballparks.
There’s really not a bad seat in Oriole park. The field is beautiful, the layout is gorgeous, and the Warehouse looming beyond right field is awesome.
Anyone have any idea what part of the stadium this is? A possible hidden chamber underneath the field or seats?
It looks like the upper deck was the first structure put in place. The lower level still looks a mess in this picture:
The stadium by the way cost $110 million to build. By today’s standards, that’s about $180 million. In contrast with other stadiums that have been built, that’s pretty cheap.
Could this be a flag pole out in the famous right field ‘flag court?’
How excited were the people of Baltimore when this stadium was being built? Anyone have any personal stories that lived in Baltimore during this time?
The playing surface at Camden Yards is Kentucky Bluegrass.
Once the grass starts getting installed, you know that the end of construction must be close.
A worker takes a breather to look at the beauty that surrounds him:
A view from center field. The upper level looks just about finished.
Looking towards left field into center field.
A view down the left field line from the second deck:
The stadium looks almost complete except for the lower level seating bowl.
One of the final touches is constructing the giant scoreboard in center field.
Since the stadium opened in 1992, millions have people have enjoyed baseball there, including me. I’ve been there 9 times, making the four hour drive from Pittsburgh.
Maybe one day soon, the Orioles will get their organization turned around like the Rays did in 2008 to be an annual contender. In the meantime, at least they have a beautiful venue to play ball in.
There’s only 35 days until opening day, and 2 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). And, just 3 more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.
By the way, welcome to March. Opening Day will be here before we know it.
Also, thank you for reading! February 2012 was my second busiest month in the history of this blog. We logged 11,000 views in the month. I’ll keep turning out the entries daily as long as you keep reading. I’m looking forward to doing some ballhawking entries soon! Opening weekend is going to be very busy for me.
Opening Day is fast approaching, spring training camps are set to open any day now, and many teams have begun selling individual game tickets. Fans all around the country are getting ready for baseball season and offering their opinions on how their team is going to do. I’ve decided to do the same. Rather than do a team-by-team break down, I’ll offer my predictions by division.
I’ve also included 2012 Predicted statistics from the 2012 Major League Baseball Yearbook and Fantasy Guide
I’ll start with the American League East.
In 2011, the Yankees took the division, while the Rays capitalized on the Red Sox epic collapse to earn second place and a wild card spot. Toronto played decent ball in baseball’s toughest division, finishing with as many wins as losses, and Baltimore brought up the rear of the division.
So, here’s my picks:
1st place: New York Yankees (My projection 96-66)
The Yankees made a major move during the offseason, acquiring Michael Pineda from the Mariners to shore up their rotation. Their rotation is anchored by CC Sabathia, who along with Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, and Pineda, should be about average.
The Yankees have a great offense. C Russell Martin is not much of an offensive threat, but the Yankees have Mark Teixeria, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher to provide the firepower – all of who have 25+ home run potential. It will be interesting to see how Derek Jeter does as he enters his age 38 season. Might this be his last as a starting shortstop before age necessitates a position switch to the outfield or DH? Speaking of Jeter, will he still hit leadoff, or will Girardi put speedster Brett Gardner there?
Here’s the Yankees 2012 Statistical Projections (AVG-HR-RBI):
C Russell Martin .242-15-59
1B Mark Teixeira .253-36-108
2B Robinson Cano .308-28-114
3B Alex Rodriguez .271-26-101
SS Derek Jeter .297-8-65
LF Brett Gardner .261-6-37
CF Curtis Granderson .258-35-103
RF Nick Swisher .268-23-84
SP CC Sabathia 21-8, 3.12 ERA, 231 IP, 213 K
SP Hideki Kuroda 15-12, 3.49 ERA, 211.1 IP, 171 K
SP Ivan Nova 14-7, 4.10 ERA, 167 IP, 101 K
SP Freddy Garcia 12-7, 4.13 ERA, 153 IP, 96 K
SP Phil Hughes 13-9, 4.60 ERA, 172 IP, 134K
SP Michael Pineda 13-12, 3.96 ERA, 200 IP, 203 K
RP Mariano Rivera 1.78 ERA, 61 IP, 57 K, 40 Saves
RP David Robertson 2.19 ERA, 66 IP, 98 K, 2 Saves
2nd Place: Tampa Bay Rays (My prediction 90-72)
I kept going back and forth between the Rays and Red Sox for my second place pick. I ultimately decided that the Rays had a better pitching staff that the Red Sox along with miracle worker Joe Maddon.
The Rays offense isn’t nearly as strong as the Yankees and Red Sox. They have Evan Longoria, but besides him, there’s not much else that makes me say, ‘wow.’ BJ Upton has been up and down his whole career, but there’s some in the business who think that he could break out in a big way in 2012 – just like Matt Kemp did for the Dodgers last year.
I really like the Rays pitching staff. All five starters are dependable and should keep the Rays in the game day in and day out.
Here’s the Tampa Bay Rays’ 2012 Statistical Projections:
C Jose Molina .266-8-39
1B Carlos Pena .236-32-93
2B Ben Zobrist .264-18-91
3B Evan Longoria .268-36-91
SS Sean Rodriguez .229-9-51
LF Desmond Jennings .269-15-50
CF BJ Upton .241-20-72
RF Sam Fuld .266-2-23
OF Matt Joyce .270-21-86
DH Luke Scott .249-22-59
SP James Shields 14-13, 3.57 ERA, 227 IP, 226 K
SP David Price 15-11, 3.12 ERA, 219 IP, 216 K
SP Jeremy Hellickson 15-9, 2.92 ERA, 219 IP, 145 K
SP Matt Moore 12-10, 3.99 ERA, 160 IP, 163 K
SP Wade Davis 11-10, 4.09 ERA, 189 IP, 114 K
RP Kyle Farnsworth 2.30 ERA, 23 saves, 55 IP, 51 K
RP Joel Peralta 3.44 ERA, 5 saves, 71 IP, 73 K
3’rd place: Boston Red Sox (My prediction 87-75)
The Red Sox crashed and burned in 2011, missing the playoffs despite holding a nine game advantage heading into September. I believe that they will narrowly miss the playoffs again in 2012. Red Sox nation is excited to have Bobby Valentine at the helm. A new manager will bring a new voice and hopefully hold all of the players accountable for their actions. Are the Red Sox players too whiny? How will they take to Bobby V? The Red Sox have an offense that rivals that Yankees, but they’re pitching staff isn’t as good. And my bold predictions are the Kevin Youkilis absolutely tanks this year while Carl Crawford rebounds from a poor 2011.
2012 Red Sox Statistical Projections:
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia .230-18-62
1B Adrian Gonzalez .337-34-136
2B Dustin Pedroia .308-24-101
3B Kevin Youkilis .282-24-99
SS Mike Aviles .275-9-45
LF Carl Crawford .274-13-68
CF Jacoby Ellsbury .316-25-81
RF Ryan Sweeney .272-4-53
DH David Ortiz .292-26-96
SP Jon Lester 16-9, 3.43 ERA, 194 IP, 197 K
SP Josh Beckett 13-9, 3.67 ERA, 191 IP, 176 K
SP Clay Buchholz 13-7, 3.27 ERA, 154 IP, 112K
SP Alfredo Aceves 12-7, 3.72 ERA, 172 IP, 122 K
SP Daniel Bard 4-3, 3.03 ERA, 62.1 IP, 65 K
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka 6-5, 4.89 ERA, 96 IP, 80 K
RP Andrew Bailey 2.52 ERA, 38 SV, 54 IP, 49 K
RP Mark Melancon 3.39 ERA, 4 SV, 72 IP, 67 K
4th Place: Toronto Blue Jays (My prediction 79-83)
I am the least familiar with the Toronto Blue Jays of the five teams in the AL East. Their only player that I keep an eye on is Jose Bautista, who for a while was my favorite player on the Pirates. I loved that he was versatile and played infield and outfield for the Buccos. He used to play center field and toss balls into the stands between innings. I caught his 10th career home run on the fly. I’ve loved the guy ever since. Of course, the Pirates traded him for some bum named Robinzon Diaz, and then he became arguably the best player in the MLB after he left town.
Here’s their 2012 statistical predictions:
C JP Arencibia .223-25-83
1B Adam Lind .246-25-83
2B Kelly Johnson .238-22-59
3B Brett Lawrie .304-13-70
SS Yunel Escobar .298-10-53
LF Eric Thames .257-13-40
CF Colby Rasmus .254-18-62
RF Jose Bautista .284-41-99
DH Edwin Encarnacion .268-21-65
SP Ricky Romero 15-10, 3.30 ERA, 213 IP, 170 K
SP Brandon Morrow 13-12, 4.65 ERA, 201 IP, 230 K
SP Brett Cecil 10-14, 4.08 ERA, 212 IP, 146 K
SP Henderson Alvarez 10-9, 4.13 ERA, 146 IP, 105 K
SP Dustin McGowan 7-8, 4.10 ERA, 123 IP, 102 K
RP Sergio Santos 3.64 ERA, 29 saves, 59 IP, 88 K
RP Casey Janssen 2.78 ERA, 1 save, 58 IP, 53 K
5th Place: Baltimore Orioles (My prediction: 69-93)
The Baltimore Orioles haven’t had a winning season in years. Fourteen years to be exact. They’ve toiled at or near the division for all these years, not able to succeed with the big spending Yankees and Red Sox in their division. You have to feel bad for them. I can relate. My favorite team, the Pirates, haven’t had a winning record in 20 years. However, I do believe the Pirates have a better chance of a winning season that the Orioles since the Buccos don’t play the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox 18 times. That’s tough. Frustratingly tough.
The Orioles have a few decent players in Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis, but not much else. Their rotation looks dreadful.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Matt Wieters .280-23-74
1B Mark Reynolds .219-36-85
2B Brian Roberts .260-8-42
3B Josh Bell .260-9-40
3B Wilson Betemit .286-9-44
SS JJ Hardy .266-28-82
LF Nolan Reimold .247-21-72
CF Adam Jones .285-27-83
RF Nick Markakis .286-15-72
DH Chris Davis .273-9-35
SP Jake Arrieta 12-11, 5.05 ERA, 162 IP, 118K
SP Tsuyoshi Wada 11-11, 4.23 ERA, 202 IP, 136 K
SP Zach Britton 11-10, 4.76 ERA, 144 IP, 91 K
SP Brian Matusz 7-15, 5.97 ERA, 146 IP, 118 K
RP Jim Johnson 2.63 ERA, 22 SV, 82 IP 66 K
RP Kevin Gregg 4.25 ERA, 12 SV, 59 IP, 56 K
So, to summarize, I’ve got
How do you think they’ll finish?
Leave a comment. Thanks to Frank Peavy for pointing out several roster moves that weren’t reflected in this post. They’ve since been edited.
49 days until opening day, 2 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, and 3 days left to win this Dustin Pedroia T-Shirt.
Today was our last day in
We spent the first half of the day walking around, seeing the nice parts,
and the not so nice.
We spend an hour or so in Barnes and Noble to stay out of the heat. And then went to Best Buy where we messed around with the organ.
Unfortunately, the guitars were missing strings – I am much better at guitar than piano.
At 4PM we arrived at the park and were first in line, which resulted in me being first to the left field seats.
By the way, shortly before 4, we were allowed into the Ballpark Early to use the bathroom. I was tempted to stand on Eutaw Street and wait for home run balls, but no one was hitting yet, and I didn’t want to get into trouble so we exited the stadium again (we were told to anyway by the nice worker that let us in) and went and got in line.
Oh, and take notes PNC Park, the workers at Camden Yards are actually ready with the giveaway before the gates open.
Amy was behind me and took a few shots on her way over to the left field seats:
I should note that I didn’t find any balls in the seats. There were some folks that were guests of the ballpark that were just leaving the LF seats as I entered the seating bowl, so I assume they picked up any balls that may have been in there.
My first ball of the day was thrown to me by ex-Pirates pitcher Chris Jakubauskus.
My second ball of the day was a home run hit by Robert Andino. I caught it cleanly after running down the stairs a few rows and reaching down to my left to make the basket catch here:
The group featuring Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds came up and didn’t hit nearly as many home runs as yesterday, but there still were a few homers here and there. I caught a Mark Reynolds home run on the fly. The ball carried on me and I stepped over the seats to get a better angle on the ball and an extra six inches of height and inadvertintly robbed another ballhawk, while stepping on his foot. I felt a bit clumsy. I’m so used to hopping up on the bleachers and snagging balls. Not a big fan of the seats.
My fourth ball was a clean catch of a Tony Cruz home run somewhere in here:
Amy was taking some pics for me, but it was too dangerous to be too close, especially 8 months pregnant. She took cover near the left field foul pole in the shade.
It was JJ Hardy T-Shirt day at the stadium, so over 28,000 people showed up on a Thursday to take advantage of the promotion. Things got real crowded after 5:30.
So, I checked on Amy,
and then went over to center field, since there was a group with three Cardinals in it. Plus, as you can see, it was less crowded there, so I decided that was my the highest percentage area to get another ball or two.
I picked a row and waited. Can you find me?
The spot paid off as an unidentified Cardinals batter hit a ground rule double that I snagged here:
I went back to LF for Holliday and Berkman, but got shut out. It was just too crowded. I finished batting practice in right center field, and nothing happened. Batting practice then ended. Before leaving, I spotted something in the gap!
I ran up the stairs to Amy and my backpack to get the ‘Cleveland Stick.’
And proceeded to use it to fish out a brand new
JJ Hardy T-Shirt that someone dropped!
No one claimed it, so finders keepers.
We left right after batting practice and headed to Annapolis, one of Amy’s favorite childhood spots. We checked into our hotel, and then went down to the water.
It was peaceful there.
We sat on a dock and let our feet hang down and enjoyed our evening together.
Once the sun set, we went into town and bought ice cream cones.
I got mint chocolate chip.
Baltimore turned out to be a great two days, now on to my next game tomorrow…
Game: 5 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 264 balls (111 hit, 55 thrown, 61 device, 28 found)
Games: 45 games
Average: 5.87 balls per game
Career: 1,386 balls (I numbered all the balls wrong – off one. God. I’ll make my next one 1382, then skip ahead to 1388.)
Amy and I decided to head down to Baltimore for a couple games to see the Cardinals take on the Orioles. We checked into the hotel, and Amy rested at the hotel while I left to go to batting practice.
The first ball I got was an absolute bomb that hit at the back of the seats near the bullpens and bounced back towards the field where I caught it.
Ball #2 was hit by another Orioles batter towards the foul pole. I simply jogged over and picked it up easy.
My third ball was cheap, but it was still #3. It was a ball that was misplayed by another ballhawk and bounced into the row in front of him where I snagged it with my glove.
Ball #4 was a clean catch here:
I barely had to move. I’m not sure who hit any of the balls, but the first Orioles group was really good. I mean really good. I had snagged four balls from one group alone, but two other ballhawks had snagged five and I think six. Impressive. And they were all batted balls too.
The Orioles final group sucked, so I didn’t get my fifth ball until the Cardinals came out to hit. It was tossed to me by pitcher Trever Miller, who I remember was the one pitcher who tossed up baseballs at PNC Park in recent series.
I moved over to center field when I saw a home run land in the gap in center field. I was able to glove trick it for ball #6, but not without some difficulty. It took four tries, but I was able to reel it in.
My seventh ball was a ground rule double that I caught next to a mom. I immediately handed the ball over which she gave to her child. She may have been able to make the play, but she was gloveless, so who knows.
My eighth ball was a clean catch of a Colby Rasmus HR with some competition from behind here:
No clue who hit it.
We made our way to the inner harbor,
and took a few photos. One of the bonuses of ballhawking outside of Pittsburgh is that its like a mini-vacation. I go to BP for an hour, and then I get to spend the rest of the time with the love of my life. Can’t beat that!
We headed towards Barnes and Noble:
And saw the Hard Rock Cafe:
I ordered a California Club sandwich.
It was bad. I felt like I was eating a salad sandwich with chicken, there was one thin fillet. Not impressed.
While we were out, the citizens of Baltimore were extra friendly. We kept getting warm smiles every where we turned, then it dawned on me.
It was because of our baby.
We walked around a little more before heading back to our hotel. Baltimore isn’t as bad as the Wire portrays. At least not the few blocks we saw.
Here are today’s baseballs (only 7 pictured because 1 was given away):
Game: 8 balls (6 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 259 balls (107 hit, 54 thrown, 61 device, 28 found)
Games: 44 games
Average: 5.87 balls per game
Career: 1,381 balls
I decided that rather than doing three separate entries, that I would lump all three Orioles games together in one entry.
I began Monday on the Riverwalk, which ended up being a waste of time for about the tenth game in a row. There simply hasn’t been any action there since Pedro Alvarez went on the disabled list.
Upon entering the stadium, I caught two baseballs on the fly within the first two minutes of batting practice. They were both hit by Matt Diaz, and I caught both of them here:
I wasn’t expecting a huge crowd on Monday, but I was wrong. There were enough fans that things got crowded enough where range became a problem at 5:30. During the Orioles batting practice, I glove tricked a ball along the wall in left field, and caught an unidentified Orioles home run on the fly here:
After batting practice I got some extra tickets scanned and got two bags filled with photo wraps. It was too crowded to compete for outfield toss ups, so I watched most of the game from beneath the left field bleachers.
There was a gigantic crowd for a Tuesday, with over 33,000 in attendance for a 1971 World Series stein.
The Pirates stopped hitting at 5:03. Wow. Three minutes of batting practice time. Nice.
Nick Markakis hit a home run that landed just out of reach in the ivy in center field. I went over to take a look at the ball, and deemed that it was definitely gettable with the right device. I let it go though, as there was a supervisor nearby.
I left immediately after batting practice.
There as no batting practice today, as it was a day game after a night game, and the players needed the extra sleep. (Poor babies).
Anyhow, the Markakis ball from yesterday was still in center field:
So I grabbed a squeegee and prodded it loose, reached through the railing and grabbed it to avoid a shutout.
When the Orioles came out to throw (and only two sets of pitchers came out), I was lucky enough to snag a ball from Clay Rapada.
He tossed his ball towards the crowd, and two other fans tried to make the snag along with me. The ball clanked off of our hands/gloves, bounced on the warning track, where I snagged it with my right hand almost immediately.
In other news:
I had x-rays done on my hand that I hurt on June 7th when racing Nick into foul territory to snag a ball. Since then, I’ve had no strength in my middle and ring fingers and can only move them minimally. Since they haven’t been healing, I decided I needed to go to the doctor, even though I’m one of those stubborn people that hate going to doctors.
The x-rays came back negative, but the doctor said I have tendinitis, and must refrain from using my left hand for the next five days. That’s my glove hand. Not good. She gave me some anti inflammatory meds and said to come back if it doesn’t get better.
To cap things off, I tweaked my back on the way to the doctor by lifting and carrying a giant trash bag with nineteen 3- pound boxes in it. I can’t win.
6/20: 4 balls (3 hit, 1 device)
6/21: 2 balls (1 hit, 1 device)
6/22: 2 balls (1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 240 balls (93 hit, 53 thrown, 59 device, 26 found)
Games: 41 games
Average: 5.85 balls per game
Career: 1,362 balls
Attendance: 22,447, 33,806, 19,418
*Last year on 6/22 I had snagged 249 baseballs in 38 games. 132 of the 249 from last year were batted balls. I miss Lastings Milledge.
Our third day in Florida brought us to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota FL.
We got there a little before 10AM, which gave us over an hour to explore the exterior of the stadium and pick up our tickets at the will call window. The stadium had received a complete renovation over the offseason, and it showed. This was one of the nicest Spring Training stadiums I’ve visited.
She noticed baseballs in the bottom of the gate, along with ‘BB’ for baseball.
She also pointed out baseballs in the supports of the awning above home plate.
I pointed out to her that the gates looked the exact same as the ones in Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Here is a look through the gate at the inside of the stadium:
It looked really nice for a Spring Training stadium.
The landscaping and exterior work was great.
Check out the giant planters pots with palm trees. Nice touch.
We walked back to the area behind left field, where there was a gate area that allowed a view into the park.
Upon peeking in, this is what I saw:
Cages were up, and the Orioles were out warming up.
This was the area in front of the gate area.
I decided that there was a chance that a ball could hit the concrete and leave the stadium, so Amy and I spent the next 45 minutes standing in the parking lot beyond left field.
I was able to see ball after ball fly through the air, many of them hitting inside of the left field area just in front of the gate in front of me, but getting caught up on chairs, trees, railings, or whatever.
Eventually a ball cleared everything and landed inside of a gated area to the left of the left field pavilion. It settled right up against the fence so I went over and worked it around to the middle of the gate and pulled it through.
It was my first ball of the day.
We stood around for the next 45 minutes and waited.
Nothing else came out.
Eventually, it was time to go in, so I set up in the second row area.
It turned out to be a big mistake. The Orioles have lots of right handed power, and the first ground was pounding ball after ball over my head landing in this area:
Amy took lots of pictures of the Orioles’ batting practice:
A view from left field of the stadium:
Some of the Orioles players. Its a shame that some players still wear their pullovers during BP, making it tough to identify them.
Orioles batters kept ripping home runs,
but many of them were sailing into the area just out of reach to the left of the left field pavilion.
The Orioles are stacked with right handed power this year, such as Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy, Derrek Lee, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold.
I got to see about the last 25 minutes of Orioles batting practice. I was sure that I’d be able to snag a few baseballs during the Pirates batting practice, but for whatever reason, the Pirates weren’t even at the ballpark yet.
There was no trace of them anywhere.
The groundscrew came out and took the screens and cage away, ending batting practice.
I had only snagged one ball at Ed Smith stadium, and it was before the gates even opened. It was a shame, because the left field area could’ve been pretty good for ballhawking. Check it out:
Anyway, here’s the concession stand behind left field:
At that point, I decided to take a brief video to show you all that area:
Here it is:.
Amy and I got our picture taken behind home plate before heading to the inner concourse and out of the sun.
Before heading out though, we took a panorama of the field:
Under the bleachers, there was a welcome sign near the Home Plate area:
Orioles Team Store:
A giant tree:
At this point, we decided to leave the game. We didn’t feel like waiting around for an hour and a half for the game to start. So, we left.
To this point in the trip, I had snagged five balls over three days. Last year, I snagged 32 balls in three days. This trip became about much more than ballhawking. Ballhawking had taken a back seat to Amy and I enjoying our time together in Florida and squeezing the most out of every minute we had.
We decided to head back to Fort DeSoto beach, where we had spent a good chunk of time on Friday. On the way back though, we stopped at Pirate City in Bradenton.
The Pirates were wrapping things up on a practice field when we drove by, presumably before busing the short distance to Sarasota.
Here’s a shot of the living quarters at Pirate City that Amy snapped:
We parked here,
and walked the very short distance to the entrance to the Pirate City practice Fields.
here’s the entrance way. Notice the baseballs on the tops of the posts. Unfortunately, they aren’t major league baseballs. They are generic.
Upon walking in, I was looking at the practice fields and the players off in the distance that had just finished their workout, when Amy noticed something.
Three baseballs just out of arms reach all in one area.
Well, it was glove trick time.
After untangling the string, I tossed it over the fence and knocked one of the balls closer so that I could reach right under the fence and grab it.
The second ball took a little more effort, but I was able to get that one too.
The third and farthest ball took awhile. There was a slight slope or indentation where it had settled, so it took probably fifteen or so attempts before getting it close enough to reach under and grab.
After snagging those three balls, we started looking around the practice grounds.
There were probably like six or so practice fields, with no action on any of them.
We looked around anyhow.
Eventually, we came to a roped off portion beyond the practice field fence. See the sign on the ground on the right hand side of the picture?
It said this:
It must’ve been posted on the rope at some point. But since it wasn’t, we kept right on going and were now on a golf course.
See the ball in the photo below? Well there was also a couple in those bushes, and one in that open shed area.
Here’s a couple more:
We eventually came to a maintenance area, that we didn’t go into, although there were probably more ‘Easter Eggs’ back there. Eventually, a man on a golf cart told us we couldn’t be back there and told us to leave. We did. But not before finding 8 balls back there.
That made it a double digit day!
After the twenty minutes or so that we spent at Pirate City, we went back to the beach. It was crowded, but we found some secluded spots to relax.
The spot was only reachable by crossing some rough terrain. The only visitors we had to worry about were birds.
We then moved back to the regular beach area.
And laid out for awhile, then went into the water, since it was much warmer today.
It had been an amazing, relaxing trip. We had kept busy every minute of the trip, which had really tired me out.
Unfortunately, our time in Florida had come to an end, as it was time for us to head back to Tampa International Airport, back to Pittsburgh and the cold. I’d like to thank Amy for such a great time in Florida and keeping me happy though out the trip. Ballhawking really took a back seat to her on this trip, but that’s not because of her. It was all me, wanting to leave the games to go other places. Will my diminished ballhawking drive continue into the regular season? Who knows. Do I have any goals for the regular season yet? Nope. Will I attend more games in 2011. Probably not. Will I improve upon my 544 ball season from last year? I’d say the chances are slim. Amy will be with me in two weeks as I open the season on the road. Keep an eye out for that.