Today was a bounce back day for me. After nearly being shut out yesterday, I got on the board quickly today.
Within the first 30 seconds of being in the park, I had a ball. Upon entering the bleacher area, I checked in the general admission bleachers (upper bleachers). Balls rarely go up there, but every now and then a power hitter will reach them, or a ball will bounce on the concrete and settle up there.
I ran up the steps and found ball #1 waiting for me in the front row.
I got ball #2 off the bat of Jason Jaramillo, who was hitting right handed. He hit a high fly ball to my right. I ran over a section, but lost the ball in the sun momentarily. The ball landed on a bleacher and settled near my feet, and I was able to reach down and quickly grab it.
Ball #3 came from Brandon Moss. He fielded a ball and looked to the bleachers. I held my glove up, and he fired the ball at me.
The Pirates wrapped up their portion of batting practice a bit early. There was a ball up against the outfield wall that I was waiting to use the glove trick on. I wasn’t going to do the trick with the Pirates in the field, because they all recognize me by now, and I don’t want to look greedy. Luckily, the Pirates jogged off the field, leaving the ball at the wall. I sprang into action and reeled in ball #4 with the glove trick.
The Cubs came out to hit, and Alfonso Soriano began shagging in left field.
Luckily, he was only focused on the balls that a coach was hitting him, and didn’t bother himself with any BP balls hit his way. A Cubs batter hit a line drive that trickled to the edge of the warning track. It was glove trickable, but not without drawing lots of attention to myself from throwing my glove a good 15 feet or more out onto the field. I decided to let it go.
Then, a grounds keeper walked by and kicked the ball to the base of the wall. “Maybe they’ll toss it up to one of yinz,” he said.
Game: 7 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 224 balls (117 hit, 75 thrown, 32 device)
Games: 45 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.98 balls per game
Career: 390 balls
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
The only positive from the entire night was the beautiful pink sky at dusk.
Tonight’s game was the absolute worst game I’ve been to all season. Although it was a nine inning game, the game lasted FOUR hours.
During the Pirates’ portion of batting practice I got absolutely nothing. The Cubs’ portion of batting practice was just as bad. The Cubs’ fans outnumbered the Pirates fans at batting practice, so I didn’t even bother putting on my Cubs gear. The Cubs players were also remarkably stingy, notable Lester Strode, who even ignored a group of young Cubs’ fans when picking up two balls near the wall.
Luckily, around 5:40, Aramis Ramirez launched a homerun ball directly at me. I didn’t even have to move.
I caught the line drive on the fly, making it ball #1, and my only ball of the day.
I caught the ball in my usual batting practice spot, in the aisle between Sec 134 and 135.
After BP ended, I tried to get Ian Snell’s warm up ball, but bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade took it into the bullpen with him, totally snubbing me.
My seats for this game were located on the right field wall, in Sec 143 Row F. I figured that I could improve on my paltry one ball by moving back and forth between RF and CF
throughout the game. Nate McLouth throws a warm up ball into the stands at the top of each odd numbered inning, while the right fielder throws during even numbered innings. I made nine attempts to get a warm up ball.
Unfortunately, I think Nate knows who I am and refuses to throw the ball to me. On one Sunday back in June, I caught three of his warm up balls in one game. Two I had to jump for, and probably weren’t meant for me, possibly contributing to McLouth giving me the could shoulder ever since.
I didn’t receive a ball the entire game, so I moved down to Section 24 to attempt to get a game ball from an umpire as they left the field. By this time, it was 11:04 PM, and the only remaining fans in the crowd were Cubs fans. The place had a Wrigley Field feel to it, as chants of “Let’s Go Cubbies” echoed from every crevice of the stadium. In the picture below, you can see all of the Cubs fans standing in anticipation of the final out. U
Game: 1 Ball
Season: 104 Balls
Career: 142 Balls
Attendance: 17,929 (46.7% full)
The Pirates came back to Pittsburgh after an awful road trip to take on the rival Cubs of Chicago. I usually hate it when the Cubs come to Pittsburgh because their fans travel well, and there are usually almost as many Cubs fans as Pirates fans.
I didn’t get to the Center Field gate until 4:45 PM, so I figured I’d be at the end of a long line and lose a few minutes of BP time. Luckily, I was fifth in line, as the “crowd” was late arriving. There was a line back to the bridge by the time the gates opened at 5.
I’d been waiting for this day since last Wednesday, because I would have a chance to get my 100th ball of the season (I needed only 1 to achieve this milestone). I stood between Sections 135 and 136, as I usually do, and came up empty during the Pirates portion of batting practice, which was 15 minutes worth. The Pirates bat from 4:30-5:15, but the gates don’t open until 5 PM for season ticket holders. Yeah, its stupid.
During the Pirates portion of batting practice, Craig Hansen was being a bit childish. Several people had asked him for balls that rolled his way, but he refused to oblige. Around 5:10, a ball rolled towards Hansen. He picked it up and threw it high and hard. It hit off of a sign right below the score board. If it had been a Home Run, it would’ve measured 550-580 feet from home plate. Many folks around me took off running for the ball, swarming up the steps into the general admission bleachers. I didn’t budge. I figured Hansen had done it for his own amusement to watch all of the fans scurry about for the ball. I’d seen Hansen do this before. He took a ball during the last homestand and long tossed it way over the batters eye in Center Field. The ball presumably landed in the Allegheny. If any one got it, I’ll never know.
The next ball that rolled Hansen’s way was a ball that I got, but not until 20 minutes later. Hansen took the ball and chucked it into the upper deck. Some fans just looked at each other with astonished looks on their faces. I heard someone say, “Why did he do that?”
I made a mental note of where the ball landed, several rows up in Section 328, and returned my concentration to batting practice.
The Cubs were now taking batting practice and Alfonso Soriano was shagging balls in left field. I didn’t even bother asking him to toss and balls to me, as I noticed he was too busy doing ridiculous dance steps to horrible music. A few minutes into the Cubs portion of BP, Derrek Lee launched a deep fly to left field. The ball hit off of a railing separating Section 136 from the Handicapped seating area, as seen in the picture below. I drifted over to “take a look” at the HR, but I knew it was over my head. The ball slammed off the railing, and directly at me. I snatched it out of the air. It was ball #1 of the day, and my one-hundredth ball of the season. I received a congratulatory hand-shake from fellow ballhawk, Amac. It was nice to finally be in triple digits.
Soon after, 5:30 approached, and the rest of the stadium would be opening up. I positioned myself at the bottom of the stairs just inside the left field gate. At 5:30 I took off up the escalator, skipping every other step. I was winded after about three steps, but kept pushing on, knowing that Hansen’s ball was somewhere in the upper deck, untouched and waiting to be claimed.
After I reached the upper deck, I immediately turned left and went in the first walkway that I saw that led to Section 329. I dashed up the stairs, ran over one section, and there it was, ball #2. Thank you Craig Hansen.
I set up in the first row of Section 142. Its the first section you see there on the right field wall. While there I politely asked Neal Cotts, Sean Marshall, and Kosuke Fukudome for balls. They never so much as even glanced up at the top of the wall. Even though I had thrown on a Cubs shirt and hat. There were also two coaches with fungo bats. I was able to identify
them from their photos on my “cheat sheet,” but they never so much as
came within 50 feet of the wall. Meanwhile, I was watching Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano launch several balls into the left field bleachers. I was thinking, “Great choice Erik.” Enter the D-Train, Daryl Ward.
Ward launched a deep fly to right field. I judged it perfectly, but realized at the last second that the ball was going to fall short of the wall. I grabbed the front railing of the 21 foot high wall to support myself and reached as far as I could. I was able to make a basket catch on the ball with my arm outstretched as far as it could go. It was ball #3 of the day. I was getting ready to label the ball, when with the very next pitch, Ward sent another HR in the exact same spot. He had hit this ball with more force and it landed three rows behind me. It hit a chair, which killed the balls’ momentum and sat there in an empty row. I hopped over three rows and was able to throw my glove over the ball with less than a second to spare. Amac, a fellow ballhawk, who will probably comment that I robbed him, was after this HR ball and arrived just a split second too late. I had ball #4 of the day in my mitt.
Batting practice ended soon after, and I went to meet my wife at the Left Field gate. She had came late, because she had to work late and wasn’t home when I left my house. We had pretty good seats for this game, (or so we thought) in Section 222 Row K, Seats 1-2 (See view below). I was hoping to get some foul balls during the game, but all I got was annoyed.
When we got to our seats
around 6:30, the
Within fifteen minutes we were surrounded by an annoying old couple to our left, who kept sticking their bony hands in our faces pointing to something over on the right. Making matter worse was a family of five with two annoying kids who sat directly to our left. The little brats kept running up and down the stairs. Around the 3rd or 4th inning, Holly and I got up and watched the middle section of the game on TV from comfortable chairs in the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. After the Pirates fell behind 10-1, we decided to leave the game early, as we are both starting back to school this week and were really tired from getting up early
The Pirates ended up getting crushed 12-3. I was happy with 4 balls. I discussed batting practice with 3 fellow ball hawks on my way to the designated driver booth to sign up for a free drink. Two of them got shut out, and Amac came away with 1 ball in batting practice. My day’s work is pictured below.
Game: 4 Balls
Season: 103 Balls
Career: 141 Balls
Attendance: 14,454 (37.7% full)