The baseball world has been abuzz recently due to Ryan Braun’s suspension being repealed by an independent arbitrator. In case you missed it, Braun tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was facing a 50 game suspension. His sample had ridiculously high levels of synthetic testosterone, a banned substance. Braun and his lawyers argued successfully and won the first ever PED suspension appeal in MLB history.
The are two possible reasons for Braun’s positive test:
1) Braun is a cheater and actually did take illegal substances
2) Someone tried to frame Braun by tainting his sample and framing him.
The arbitrator agreed. Because the collector took the sample on a Saturday and didn’t mail it to the lab until a Monday, it was argued that during the 48 hour that a third party tampered with his sample. MLB disagreed because the seal on the sample wasn’t broken, making it thereby impossible that it was tampered with.
Braun will face increased pressure to follow up his MVP season with a similar performance. He has doubters all over the game right now. If his performance trails off, everyone will assume that he cheated and got off – a la OJ Simpson. Unfortunately for Braun, he no longer has Prince Fielder batting behind him, which helps him because pitchers may be more likely to pitch around him. Also, Braun is going to be mercilessly tortured on the road. Can you even imagine that insults that will be hurled at him in the left field bleachers. Here’s some advice – if the Brewers are in town and you have children, don’t sit in left field.
Last season, Braun’s WAR – wins above replacement was a 7.7, so his suspension would’ve cost the Brewers about 3 wins – that’s a big margin for an NL Central that is going to be tightly contested between the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds.
On another front, the Pirates organization was embarrassed when news that president Frank Coonelly was arrested on December 22nd for driving under the influence of alcohol. His blood alcohol content was .16 – twice the legal limit.
To Mr. Coonelly’s credit, he did own up to his mistake and took all of the blame. My problem with it is that he could’ve seriously injured someone else due to his lack in judgment. It also doesn’t set a very good precedence for the president to be DUI, while young players would be disciplined for a similar infraction.
I’m hoping that Mr Coonelly learns his lesson and gives up drinking altogether. I do not think he should be fired.
The main problem I have with his situation is that the Pirates kept it hush-hush for two months.
What are your thoughts on Frank Coonelly? Should he be disciplined?
What do you think about Ryan Braun winning his appeal? Do you think he was guilty and got off on a technicality or that he was actually clean? I’d be interested in hearing.
There’s only 41 days until opening day, 8 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies), and 3 more days to win a Phillies shirt.
Also, 35 consecutive days of postings! (Just made it today – putting this one up at 11:50pm)
I attended only one out of the final five games of the homestand. Things have been busy lately with a new baby, a tripled workload at work (100 students to 325), and a house to upkeep.
I made sure to attend this game though as Zack Hample would be in attendance. Hample if you don’t know is a New York City ballhawk on his way to snagging 1,000 baseballs this year. He has already attended over 100 games this year and is planning on visiting all 30 major league stadiums this year.
Before the gates opened, we got a picture, taken by Ian Weir:
The man on the left is one of Zack Hample’s clients, I believe his name was David (Zack has a business that charges $500 to attend a game with him), Zack is in the yellow shirt, them Nick Pelescak, Zac Weiss, and myself. The children are David’s.
Once the gates opened, I got on the board early by getting a toss up from Jason Grilli. He’s been with the team for only a short amount of time, so he hasn’t been made anti-fan by Joel Hanrahan yet.
My second ball of the day was a clean catch right behind Ian Weir here:
Ball #3 was a ground rule double that skipped over the fence quickly and off of Ian. He slowed it down and deflected it right to me here.
My fourth ball was another clean catch in the second row of section 136. I had to climb over a bleacher or two to get into position.
When the Brewers came out I got ball #5 off the bat of Ryan Braun. He hit it to the back of section 135, so I scooped it up as it was rolling under the bleachers down towards the front row. One of the ushers started heckling me screaming at me “You just stole a ball from that kid!” and “You’ll get yours.” The kid had already snagged three balls of his own, and he was two rows below where the ball had hit. Since there was a sparse crowd, if I wasn’t there the ball would’ve eventually rolled down to him, but you would’ve thought that I ripped the ball from his hand.
I later went up and confronted the usher (who’s not a regular in left field) and explained that I didn’t steal a ball from anyone. The ball was on the ground when I picked it up. I further pointed out that I gave my sixth ball of the day, which was glove tricked in left field to a young fan in the front row nearby who hadn’t gotten one yet (in the light blue).
The family was ecstatic. The usher, who I guess was upset that I had already gotten too many baseballs possibly realized he overreacted and was happy that I gave one of mine away. I typically always give the glove trick balls away if I have to ask someone to let me in to the front row for access to the ball below.
I was making my way over to center field, and De La Cruz was retrieving a ball. I was above the bullpen and just held my glove up and he threw me a perfect strike. Here he is over in center field.
After BP was over, I took off and went home, stopping off at GetGo later that night to get 27+ gallons of gas for free.
My next game will be 9-5-11. Yeah, it’s basically a 2 week break. I thought about attending 9-3 with Nick in Washington DC, but heard from him that there wasn’t batting practice due to a concert.
I don’t know if I’ll get to too many more road games. I’d like get to most of the few remaining home games at PNC Park and then possibly a playoff game in October. We’ll see.
My goal is 413. I have 11 games left (3 of those are day games – which I’ll leave if there’s no BP). So I need to 57 balls in those 11 games which is 5.2 a game. My average this year is a tad over 5.3. Should make it somewhat challenging.
Game: 7 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 356 balls (149 hit, 75 thrown, 84 device, 48 found)
Games: 67 games
Career: 1,478 balls
Today’s game began at 1:10 PM, meaning the gates would open at 11:40 pm. However, I was hoping to get in early at Friday’s, so we arrived at the stadium around 10:30 AM.
It proved to be a mistake, because the Friday’s early entrance doesn’t open until 11AM. Amy and I were forced to stand in 40 degree temps with wind gusts of up to 50 mph for a half hour. It was brutal cold. Brutal.
We were chased from the concourse by a cranky security supervisor who made us go to Friday’s, but failed to say anything to the other couples who were loitering around.
Doumit’s first throw was well short, and fell into the bullpen. He tried again, but over shot me by 10 feet, and the ball hit a bleacher and bounced back onto the field. His third try was right on the money though. I definitely appreciated Doumit’s patience and willingness to make sure he hooked me up.
The Pirates were hitting some home runs, but not very many into the seating areas.
Everyone was tailgating and blocking the aisles, and all of the exits were roped off. The only way off was the one entryway where cars were streaming in. Eventually we were let out. We didn’t get home until 11:58 PM, as it was a ten hour drive back. Amy helped make the drive back fun though, and it went fast.
Game: 3 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device,)
Season: 140 balls (56 hit, 35 thrown, 28 device, 20 found)
Games: 22 games
Average: 6.36 balls per game
Career: 1,262 balls
*Last year on May 15th I had snagged 115 baseballs through 16 games, so I am a bit ahead of last year’s record year, despite the poor weather we’ve had.
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:
Unfortunately, I lost half of my pictures from the beginning of batting practice due to a malfunction of my camera. I must’ve left it on in my pocket, and when I went to take a picture half way through batting practice, it was in Chinese. The format option must’ve been pressed, and everything got erased from my camera.
So, ball #1 was a home run hit by Ryan Braun to the handicapped seats in left field. I jumped over a railing and picked it up for my first ball of the day.
My second ball was snagged in the ivy in center field.
Ryan Braun hit it there about 5:20, and I kept my eye on it the whole time, thinking it might be reachable. It was, and at 5:30 when the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over and grabbed it.
My third ball was pointed out to me by one of the ushers in center field. Both ushers in center field are really cool guys.
Ball #4 was fielded off the bat of Craig Counsell. I decided to head over to foul territory for a bit as there were three weak left handers up, and there was no screen protecting third base. I figured that they would try to go the other way a few times. The strategy paid off, as Counsell sliced a grounder right at me.
Ball #5 was a ground rule double off the bat of Wil Nieves. I chased it down and grabbed it with my barehand as the ball was rolling all over the place under the bleachers:
That was it for batting practice. Five baseballs. It was pretty disappointing, but the Brewers were focusing on a opposite field approach, perhaps expecting Paul Maholm to work them outside all night.
As for the game itself, I wandered around and took a picture from the upper deck during pregame.
Then I sat in the club section for a couple innings waiting for a foul ball that wouldn’t come.
I then returned to the outfield areas hoping to snag a warm up ball.
An inning later, I snagged Jose Tabata’s 8th inning warm up ball for ball #7.
The ball was bobbled by these college aged kids in the front row.
I seized the opportunity by snatching it with my glove as it was being dropped by one of them.
Season: 54 balls (21 hit, 11 thrown, 14 device, 8 found)
Games: 8 games
Average: 6.75 balls per game
Career: 1,176 balls
I got to the ballpark around 4:45 pm, and this was the scene at the Riverwalk.
The stairs leading down were blocked off with caution tape because the Allegheny River was overflowing. However, I went down anyway. One ball bounced out as I arrived. Had I been five seconds earlier I would’ve had it, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Here’s a different angle:
My first ball of the day once the stadium opened was snagged here. It was a home run that I chased down here:
The Pirates batting practice continues to be less than stellar, as they fail to reach the seats very often. Once the Pirates were done hitting, I changed into my Brewers gear, and the action began.
The Brewers first group contained Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder. They hit a bunch of homers.
I snagged my second ball in section 134 off the bat Jonathan Lucroy.
My third ball was a home run hit by Ryan Braun. I could tell that it was going to be way over my head, so I ran back under the bleachers and snagged it under the rotunda.
My fourth ball was glove tricked right next to the Pirates bullpen door.
I also saw this there:
However, it was 5:28, and I had knocked it snug against the wall and couldn’t see it anymore, as I couldn’t lean out over the wall because of the fencing. I gave up and let it go. Totally forgetting about it.
I checked in right field for an easter egg or two, but there was nothing there, and I didn’t want to miss out on all the action in left field, so I returned to left. The second group also put plenty of balls into the seat.
Rickie Weeks hit a home run ball that I chased down under the rotunda for ball #5. And moments later, a batter that I believe was Casey McGehee hit a home run that also went under the rotunda which I tracked down.
My eighth ball was a glove trick ball snagged right by the 325 sign:
That was it for batting practice. After batting practice, Nick tipped me off to a ball in the bullpen. It was the same ball that I started working on at 5:28 that I had knocked against the wall. I had totally forgotten about it.
Thanks to Ian Weir for taking the picture.
Ball #10 came around 6:55 when Kevin Correia, the Pirates started finished his warm ups in the bullpen. I asked politely for the ball, and he looked up and tossed it to me.
Moments later, Ball #11 came from Jose Tabata in the first inning. I noticed he was looking at a group of college aged folks, so I went and stood directly to their right. Since I was the only one with the glove, he fired me a perfect strike. He put some zip on the throw too.
Notice how small the crowd was at game time. There was a Penguins playoff game, and I doubt that half of the 8,000 fans that bought tickets actually showed up.
Pretty cool huh?
Well, despite the small crowds, I didn’t snag another ball.
Here are today’s 11 baseballs:
And the sweet spots.
Season: 47 balls (17 hit, 9 thrown, 14 device, 7 found)
Games: 7 games
Average: 6.70 balls per game
Career: 1,169 balls
I got a Club level seat tonight. The last time (link) I sat in the Club level, I caught two foul balls, and the visiting team was the Milwaukee Brewers. This was the Brewers final game at PNC Park this year.
Batting Practice was very frustrating.
I only got two balls during the Pirates portion. One was a Lastings Milledge home run that landed underneath the left field rotunda.
(Ball #3 says Blood Pressure Rising, which I responded “You’re telling me,” after snagging it – in regards to the frustrating BP)
Game: 6 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 318 balls (171 hit, 71 thrown, 32 device, 44 found)
Games: 49 games
Average: 6.49 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 896 balls
Streak: 145 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.