Recently, the Pirates invited their season ticket holders to come and take batting practice on the field at PNC Park.
This was the second year that the Pirates have done this, and the second year that I would participate. If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you may remember this entry from last year.
I had asked my dad if he’d like to go hit again, but he indicated that he wasn’t interested. So, I decided to ask Zack Hample, winner of the ballhawk league in 2009, if he’d like to come to PNC Park as my guest. Hample enthusiastically obliged, and brought along his mother and his friend Brandon.
Zack, two fellow ballhawks and friends, Nick and Bryan Pelescak, and I met at the stadium at 9AM. We promptly entered through the right field player’s garage door and walked down towards the field.
This was the view at the end of the tunnel.
And that, was that.
See you April 5th 2010, PNC Park.
I ran in and found ball #1 laying against a concrete step in the bleacher area. I was shocked. Lately, there have been very few Easter Eggs, as ushers have been picking them up.
I would go on to catch ball #2 off the bat of Brian Bixler. He hit a line drive that bounced on the warning track, and right into my glove. The next batter, Jason Jaramillo, hit a home run that I caught on the fly. It was ball #3.
That was it for the Pirates portion of batting practice. I went under the bleachers, changed my clothes, and emerged in my Reds gear.
I decided to re-enter the bleacher area over by the bullpen. That way, it would be less noticeable if any Reds players had previously seen me standing in my customary spot.
Game: 6 balls (6 hit)
Season: 311 balls (161 hit, 91 thrown, 59 device)
Games: 64 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.86 balls per game
Career: 477 balls
Streak: 79 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
With the Pirates having an off day, and Cleveland facing a 60% chance of storms, I decided to take a trip to a stadium I had yet to visit. Nationals Park.
I recruited several ballhawks from PNC Park to make the trip with me – Nick, Andrew, and Jamie.
After four hours and twenty three minutes, we were at the park.
And were the first ones in line at the Center Field gate, which opens at 4:35.
Game: 11 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown 6 device)
Season: 305 balls (155 hit, 91 thrown, 59 device)
Games: 63 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.84 balls per game
Career: 471 balls
Streak: 78 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Today wasn’t a great day for me.
I arrived to the ballpark late, around 4:55PM, and was at the back of a massive line. I probably was going to miss the first 7 minutes or so of batting practice. (There is only one guy who scans tickets for the first half hour or so).
Luckily, my friend and fellow ballhawk Jim, spotted me walking up to the line. He came and got me and let me stand with him in the front of the line. Thanks to Jim, I now had a very good chance of getting a ball early. Unfortunately, there were no Easter Eggs to be found.
Throughout the Pirates batting practice, there were a handful of home runs, but they carried farther than usual, over my head. I ended the Pirates portion of batting practice with nothing.
No worries, the Cubs had Soriano, Lee, Soto, Ramirez, etc. I’d be fine. However, all of the Cubs top hitters were practicing an opposite field approach. Very few home runs at all were hit into the left field bleachers.
I stayed in left field until the last group came up to hit. It was 5:45 or so, and I still had nothing to show for my efforts. I had maintained a streak of around 60 games of getting at least 1 ball. I started to feel that this streak would end today. It started in August of 2008.
In left field, I waited for my chance to snag a home run ball. The Cubs lefties weren’t hitting with much power, and the home runs they did hit, were hit to the right field seats.
6PM, still no baseballs. I had decided that I was going home after batting practice anyway. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get shut out, and my streak was over.
However, Kosuke Fukudome lined a home run ball to section 141, the section directly against the right field wall.
My friend Jim took off after it and was first to the spot. The ball hit off of his hands, and fell to the floor. I was right behind him and saw the ball bouncing around in the aisle. Jim wasn’t able to locate it right away. I reached down and picked up my one and only ball of the day. Luckily, Jim beat about three teenagers in a race to a ball in left field earlier, so he was already on the board.
It was a rough day for BP. The top four ballhawks in PNC Park recorded tallies of 2, 2, 1, and 1.
Maybe tomorrow will be better. I hope.
Today’s one baseball.
Game: 1 ball (1 hit)
Season: 217 balls (113 hit, 74 thrown, 30 device)
Games: 44 games attended (5 without BP)
Average: 4.93 balls per game
Career: 383 balls
I got to the gates about four minutes late today. When I got inside, I was discouraged to see that the final group that was batting for the Pirates was all left handed batters (Delwyn Young is a switch hitter).
I stood in left field and waited and waited for a ball to come out that way. Finally, near the end of the Pirates portion of batting practice, Delwyn Young turned around and batted right handed. He hit a home run two sections to my right that I simply had to jog over to and pick up. It was ball #1.
The Indians came out to hit. Their first group was also all lefties. Very discouraging. I could’ve had another ball, but the rubber band was missing from my glove. It must’ve gotten lost on Sunday when I went with my dad to play baseball. I also received a substantial injury on Sunday. I was going after a fly ball in left field, when I stepped into a huge swamp area left over by the torrential rains from this past Wednesday. I skidded on my right foot for about six feet, then fell backward. I landed on my glove hand, but that gave way, causing my elbow to awkwardly bend backward. It’s been real sore ever since.
Anyway, the sun was blazingly bright today.
I lost two balls in the sun. Completely lost them. When that happens, I look at other people around me, to see if they’re tracking the ball, so I can pick it back up. The folks around me couldn’t see either.
Game: 2 balls (2 hit)
Season: 200 balls (100 hit, 72 thrown, 28 device)
Games: 39 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.13 balls per game
Career: 366 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