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One of the perks that the Pirates offer is the opportunity to take batting practice inside of the PNC Park batting cages. The Pirates usually have an outdoor field day, where fans take batting practice on the field – I participated in that in September. In the winter, they invite the fans to take BP in the cages.
I took two rounds of BP of 10 pitches each. I went 20 for 20 hitting every ball that I faced.
Here’s a video of my second round:
There were two cages, one for grown ups which was set to fast speed, and one that flipped balls up there at about 30 mph for the kids. I went into the fast one of course.
The only thing I didn’t like was that my follow through kept hitting the net, making it a bit awkward.
After hitting Amy, Olivia and I went up into the hall of fame club to eat some light refreshments. Daniel McCutchen and Brad Lincoln were there, but I didn’t go up and say anything to them, especially since McCutchen seems to dislike the serious ballhawks.
As a benefit to being a season ticket holder, I was invited to take batting practice on the field at PNC Park on Sunday. The Pirates were out of town, so the BP was with other fellow season ticket holders. We we able to choose from Friday, Saturday or Sunday. I chose Sunday during the Steeler game, because I was hoping that I would be in a really small group and get more time to hit in the batting cage. That wouldn’t really be the case as other fans had the same mentality.
The bad part about going to PNC Park during a Steeler game is trying to find a place to park, and then walking to the stadium through the parking lots and dealing with drunk Steeler fans. Two fans directed comments towards me and my Pirates gear. The first fan said, “Dude, put the bats away, you’re scaring everyone!” I think he may have been serious.
I brought my metal bats because I am most comfortable using my own bats, and secondly, the ball travels a bit further. I wanted to put one out today.
Anyhow, the other comment directed toward me was some guy who asked his buddies three times if Daniel McCutchen had just walked past.
Maybe there’s some resemblance with the hair… I don’t know. I hope not.
Anyway, after checking in at a table outside of PNC Park, we were led down onto the field. Amy had come along to take some photos of the action.
The only problem is that there was no action. My group was assigned to ‘catch in left field’ first. We were supposed to play catch with our guest or snag balls.
I started throwing myself popups I was so bored. It was worse than a Pirates BP.
Eventually, Ian Weir showed up with his cousin Josh – two fellow ballhawks that I knew and would be able to throw some with.
We threw in left field for awhile.
Mixed in some popups and grounders.
And after a half hour, moved over to right field, where we would shag fly balls.
We got two fly balls, shot out of a pitching machine high into the air before we would rotate to the back of the line.
It was better than the last group, where we basically stood around – at least there was somewhat of a challenge, albeit an easy one for someone that attends BP every day and catches flies all the time.
Anyhow, the pitching machine was pitching the balls, so I watched and tried to time when I should begin my stride after seeing the ball put into the machine.
After 10 minutes or so, we rotated into the cage.
Here I am on deck:
And here I am taking some cuts.
I only got 10 pitches, and was forced to change my bat after the first pitch. “You can’t use a metal bat!!” shouted some teenage intern operating the pitching machine. I was pretty mad because fellow season ticket holder Nick Pelescak informed me that he had been allowed to use his metal bat in his session just two hours earlier. Lame. How about some consistency?
Anyhow, I quickly grabbed a Ronny Paulino 35 inch 32 ounce wooden bat so I didn’t murder anyone with screamers off of my metal bat (by the way, no one was allowed in the infield anyhow – I still don’t see what the big deal was about).
Out of the 10 pitches I pulled everything, hit a couple flies, swung and missed at a few, hit some grounders, and hit one bomb that landed in foul territory that would’ve probably had a chance to clear the fence had I not been out in front of it. It landed on the fly here:
I felt like Brandon Wood. If you’ve watched him in Pirates BP, you know what I mean.
Anyhow, we were allowed to get back in the cage after everyone got 10 pitches.
What was important about Forbes Field, well, Amy took me there on our first official date one year ago today.
Some pics from what’s left of Forbes Field:
At the 457 deepest part of the park:
Forbes Field Historical Marker:
Home Plate, which is in a lecture hall across the street from the outfield wall:
Two great close ups that Amy took of Olivia and I at the outfield wall of Forbes Field:
Walking down some steps, I think it was 144 steps or something like that. It was a lot.
I’m planning on going to Cleveland on Thursday after work…
However, we didn’t stop to look around, as we were on a schedule to get to Miller Park about an hour and a half before the gates opened. This would give us time to buy tickets, park, and familiarize ourselves with the exterior of the stadium, and find the correct gate to go into.
There wasn’t really anywhere to park around the stadium, but the stadium lots, so we parked for $10 and then walked about six minutes to the stadium. There’s a nature trail that runs along the stadium, and a bridge spans a stream on the way to Miller Park. We paused to get a quick photo.
You can see the large domed structure in the background, which of course is Miller Park. By the way, the weather in Milwaukee was absolutely miserable. It was 44 degrees with constant rain and drizzle. The biting wind made it feel like 37 degrees, so needless to say, we couldn’t do much outside during our two days in Milwaukee.
I was very disappointed to find out that the gates to Miller Park wouldn’t open until 90 minutes before the first pitch. Even though this was a SATURDAY. The only way to see the Brewers take batting practice was to go into Friday’s restuarant, so that’s just what we did.
I went out to the Friday’s deck after a few minutes, which is just above the left field wall. You’ll also notice that there’s a gap between the outfield wall and the deck, creating a perfect place for baseballs to fall into.
So, I lowered my glove and glove tricked it for my first ball of the day.
I was wrong.
Rickie Weeks drilled a line drive home run that struck a table and stayed in the deck seating area, so I ran over and picked it up. It was ball #2.
Another ball would land in the deck, but bounce back onto the field. I really couldn’t run around in there with some people seated and eating.
while the pitchers threw in the outfield near the front row of Friday’s. Chris Resop recognized me and waved.
He shook his head and shouted, “Don’t you get enough at home?!”
The only other interaction I had with a Pirates player was with Evan Meek, who saw me and asked if I had family in Milwaukee. He also asked how long of a drive it was and who I came with. Here he is looking up at me.
Once the gates opened, I ran upstairs to try for a home run ball in left field. The Pirates were already batting, and the first group contained Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Doumit, and Jose Tabata. I figured they’d be able to reach the seats.
I made my way over to right field for the rest of the Pirates batting practice, since a majority of the team is left handed. When I entered the bleachers, there were already several dozen fans there, but they all overlooked a ball that was in the front row, again, hidden under a bleacher.
It was ball #4 on the day.
However, Euclides Rojas was in the bullpen unpacking gear, so I decided to wait. Unfortunately for me, he then made his way over and picked up all four. I politely asked for one, but despite being the only Pirates fan in right field, I was denied. Every time I’ve ever asked Rojas for a ball, I’ve been glared at. I miss old bullpen coach Luis Dorante.
He tossed many balls into the crowd, and was, as usual, going all out to catch every ball hit within 200 feet of him. He had to throw the balls back in left handed, since his shoulder is injured. His toss to me was also left handed. It was inaccurate, over my head and to my right, but I was able to track it down before other fans got it. “I got it Ross!” I called down. “Thank you!” He smiled and waved.
Near the end of batting practice, I glove tricked a ball in the Pirates bullpen. It was at least 20 feet below, so it was pretty noticeable to everyone in the stadium. The section below could be heard chanting “Go! Go! Go! Go!” as I slowly pulled my glove up with the ball tucked inside. BP ended right after I glove tricked the ball, so I put on my backpack and went to meet up with Amy.
We ended up sitting near the top of the stadium in the upper deck near the right field foul pole.
Game: 6 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device, 2 found)
Season: 137 balls (55 hit, 34 thrown, 27 device, 20 found)
Games: 21 games
Average: 6.52 balls per game
Career: 1,259 balls
Amy took tons of photos. Here’s the top three that have nothing to with my ballhawking, but were quality pics by my lovely fiancee:
#1 Daniel McCutchen has pitched really well this year and was recently promoted to set up man to Joel Hanrahan. The reason for his effectiveness? This wildly distracting face upon delivering the pitch:
I took my first trip to Cleveland on Friday. Last year, I made 19 trips to Cleveland and was a 20 game season ticket holder. I didn’t renew my tickets and plan on making fewer trips this year, even though Progressive Field is one of my favorite stadiums to ballhawk in.
Amy was along with me for a weekend trip, that included a stop in Cleveland, and then two games at Miller Park in Milwaukee on Saturday and Sunday.
When we arrived, the rain had stopped, but when I peeked into the stadium, I saw the tarp out on the field, which is never a good sign – but it was negated by the fact that the cage was up, and there were several Indians out throwing. The only thing that the rain had ruined was early batting practice, meaning easter eggs would be unlikely.
Amy got in line at Gate C, and even though we arrived at 3:50, we were still first in line. I was hoping that maybe batting practice had started so there would be some balls in the seats, but it didn’t.
It ended up costing me a couple balls, because some balls landed in the seats, and I was more focused on finding balls than tracking them. It was an error, but luckily Travis Hafner was in the cage, and he was in fine form today.
Perez has thrown me more baseballs than any during batting practice. He’s probably THE most generous pitcher in terms of distributing souvenirs to fans that I’ve seen. Although Livan Hernandez of the Washington Nationals is a close second. Thanks Chris!
Another teenaged ballhawk had beaten me down there as he was in the section by the bullpen, but he couldn’t find the ball anywhere.
So even though the Indians BP was great, and I started out on fire, it all got evened out by that cold stretch, as I failed to snag another ball during the Indians portion of batting practice.
Luckily, the Seattle Mariners feature a ton of lefties, so my chances of getting a few more would be decent.
Ichiro was the first batter for the Mariners, and he didn’t disappoint. He put ball after ball into the seats.
It was an easy glove trick ball. All I’d have to do is fling my glove out a few feet, knock the ball closer to the wall, and it’d be mine. The only problem was that a security guard was thirty feet down the line, staring directly at the area where I’d have to do the glove trick.
I decided to go and just do it quickly. I went and snagged the ball, as planned, and the security supervisor marched down and demanded that I give the ball back. I did. But it wasn’t the same ball. It was a beat up decoy ball that Nick and I use to play catch with on the Roberto Clemente bridge. I kept ball #8 in my possession.
Back in right field, ball #10 was a clean catch that literally saved some lady’s face. I ran over and caught the ball on the run directly in front of an elderly woman who wasn’t paying attention at all. Amy didn’t get the picture because it was obstructed, but here I am labeling the ball.
Amy was sitting probably about twenty rows back taking pictures, when one of the lefties hit a bomb that landed a section over from her. There was no one in the vicinity but her, so as several other fans raced in to claim it. She got up and acted like she was going to go snag the ball. This caused the other fans to lay off, and gave me enough time to go get the ball. Amy knows that if she had picked it up, it wouldn’t have counted, so that’s why she left it there for me to get. She gets a huge assist on ball #11.
It was picked up in row R under a seat
It was a line drive home run that smacked an elderly man directly in the chest, knocking him down into his chair. I picked the ball up a row behind him and gave it to him. It would’ve been nice to have kept my thirteenth ball, but given the situation, I felt I had to give the ball up.
Amy and I left right after batting practice to head to Milwaukee.
Game: 13 balls (9 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 131 balls (54 hit, 33 thrown, 25 device, 18 found)
Games: 20 games
Average: 6.55 balls per game
Career: 1,253 balls