I was late to this game due to a prior commitment. By the time I got to the gate, the line had swelled to the back of the Clemente Bridge. The Pirates only employ one ticket scanner for the first half hour, so this was going to take forever to get into the stadium.
I stood in line impatiently until 5:02, thinking about all of the missed opportunities. I then remembered the Trib Total Media Hall of Fame club entrance. Its the team’s restaurant entrance, and it opens at 5. I hurried over to the Hall of Fame Club entrance, and there was no line. I immediately had my ticket scanned, grabbed a t-shirt (It was a T-shirt Thursday), hopped on the elevator, and hustled through the restaurant to the stairway that led down to left field. I was able to make it into the bleachers by 5:06.
I got ball #1 from Pirates reliever Chris Bootcheck. A ball rolled to the wall, and I moved down to the front row, and put in a polite request. Chris turned and threw me the ball. I was on the board.
There was only one right handed batter in the Pirates’ last BP group – Brian Bixler, and I would have to wait for the Phillies to come out and hit to get some more baseballs.
Yesterday, the first group was all right handed batters, and it was an amazing round of non stop home runs. However, today, there were three lefties in the first group, thereby cutting down on hit ball opportunities.
I caught ball #2 off the bat of Jason Werth. I had moved back two rows from where I usually stand, since Werth hits for decent power. He hit a home run into section 136. I ranged to my right. The ball was just out of the reach of another ballhawk, and I was able to make the grab.
When a left handed batter came up to hit, I noticed that Matt Stairs was coming over to the left field corner to pick up three baseballs. I went down to the front row and asked Matt for a ball. He hooked me up with ball #3. He also tossed the other two balls into the stands. What a good guy.
Soon, I noticed a gap shot that rolled to the 410 sign in left center field near the bullpen. Cole Hamels was making his way over to pick the ball up, but another ball was hit at him, causing him to momentarily forget about picking up the ball at the base of the wall. I quickly went over and glove tricked the ball, for ball #4 of the day.
Ball #5 was a home run that landed in the section near the foul pole. I ran over and picked the ball up off of the ground. It had bounced back towards the field, hit a bleacher, and began rolling right towards me. I have no idea who hit it.
Pedro Feliz provided me with ball #6. He hit a home run right at me that I snagged on the fly.
It was now 5:30, and season ticket holder time was ending. The first 30 minutes of batting practice is much easier to get baseballs, because there is virtually no one there. At 5:30, a throng of fans sporting Phillies gear descended upon the bleacher area. I decided that I was going to leave the area and head over to right field.
I boxed out another fan in pursuit and picked up ball #7 of the day, #500 of my career. Not exactly the greatest way to snag a milestone ball, but I got the job done.
About half way through this year I had set career ball #500 as a
secondary goal to snagging 300 in 2009. With these goals met, I could
probably make these my two new goals:
1) Snag 63 balls in September, so as to get to 400 balls in 2009.
2) Snag career ball #1,000 before the end of next season (2010).
A few rounds later, I would go on to catch ball #8, a line drive that found its way directly to me. I made the two handed catch and got a nice little round of applause from a group of Phillies fans sitting behind me.
I stayed on the right field wall for the third group, which included Matt Stairs, but got shut out for the round. Stairs hit two balls directly at me, but they completely cleared the right field wall, and ended up floating in the Allegheny River.
For the Phillies’ final batting practice group, I headed back over to left field. It was packed.
I wouldn’t be able to have much range at all. Predictably, I wasn’t able to catch any home runs, as there were maybe three hit during the round, and none of them were in my vicinity.
Batting practice then ended, and I was stuck on nine balls. I needed to get one more. Double digit games are rare, and this would be my sixth career game snagging 10 or more balls if I could somehow just snag one more.
Then, I saw it. A ball had been left on the warning track in center field. An easy glove trick job and I would have 10 balls on the day. I made my way over, but there was some new female usher that told me I wasn’t allowed to be in the section without a ticket. Realizing arguing would get my no where, I decided to let that ball go. There was another ball that had been eating away at me for some time.
It’s been there at least a month. A ball has been tucked in the far corner on top of a concession building in the outfield concourse.
I had decided that I was going to snag that ball today, as I didn’t want to let any more time pass, as the ball was likely deteriorating as time went by.
I had placed a cup at the end of my river device, which is a ten foot pole. I climbed up the stairs, looked on top of the roof, and stretched out the pole to the maximum length. However, I was coming up just short of being able to reach the ball. Frustrated and feeling my opportunity get away, I stood on the railing to try and reach the ball. Then, the cup fell out. I was screwed.
I walked down to the concourse, collected my thoughts, and …
got the ball. At my descretion, I’ve chosen not to reveal the details, but I’ve got a witness in my friend Nick. The ball will count as an easter egg – which will count as a hit ball. The ball ended up not being a device ball after all.
My arms got filthy from this snag. Also notice that the ball had started to detiorate a little bit. The leather had dried out signicantly, and it was also faded a bit. It didn’t matter, it was ball #10.
Game: 10 balls (6 hit, 3 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 337 balls (178 hit, 99 thrown, 60 device)
Games: 69 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.88 balls per game
Career: 503 balls
Career Double Digit Games: 6
Streak: 84 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Unfortunately, batting practice was wiped out by thunderstorms that rolled through last night. When we arrived at the field just after 11AM, the tarp was still on. My only hope of getting a ball would be to have one thrown to me.
I was sort of miserable during this game due to some severe burning on my hands that I guess came from the sun. When we went in, 4/5’s of the Yankees starting rotation was warming up in right field: Andy Pettitte, Chien Ming Wang, CC Sabathia, and Joba Chamberlain. After warming up, they threw their balls to a few little kids in the Tampa Tribune Deck area. They went over to the bullpen and threw their side sessions.
Security was ridiculous for a spring training game. There is a circular walk way that is above the bullpen. There were three security guards walking back and forth and enforcing a rule that all fans had to stay at least 2 feet back from the railing. I mean, seriously? I didn’t attempt to get a ball from Sabathia or Chamberlain after their side sessions because there were so many fans. I had also noticed that the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch.
They soon started throwing along the left field line. I politely asked an usher if I could go down to the front behind where they were throwing. It was sprinkling, and there was maybe 10 fans in all of the sections along the 3rd base line. He told me I had to have a ticket, no exceptions. So, I stood above the Pirates bullpen, along a railing. Craig Hansen was throwing with some minor leaguer, Denny Bautista was tossing with #83, Chris Bootcheck was tossing with strenghth coach Frank Velazquez, and Sean Burnett was tossing with Jason Davis.
Hansen finished tossing first. My dad and I were the only ones along the railing by the Pirates bullpen. I called down to him, “Craig, could you toss that ball up!” He looked and me, and threw it with some nice authority. It was ball #1. Hansen then ran his sprints.
I asked Burnett, Velazquez, Bautista and #83 for their warm up balls, but was ignored.
We left and got something to eat and found our seats. Before game time, the Pirates came back out and started tossing, so I went back over to the railing. I noticed bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade had a few balls in his glove. He looked up at me and tossed one up. It was ball #2. There was many more fans along the railing now and some of them looked puzzled, “How’d you know that guys name?”
Zach Duke then started throwing his bullpen session before his start. I was waiting for him to get finished so I could ask for the ball. However, a security guard appeared and told everyone to go to their seats. The game wasn’t going to start for another 15 minutes. He didn’t care. Don’t the Yankees get that this is Spring Training? Is there really a need to be that strict?
Among signs I saw posted were No Standing (posted everywhere), No Loitering, No Diving from the Railing, No throwing objects from the pedestrian walkway, etc. If Spring Training was this military style in enforcing rules, I’d hate to see how strict they will be at the new Yankee Stadium during Batting Practice.
A side note: had there been batting practice, I was planning on going into the right field Tampa Tribune Deck to chase home runs. However, you can’t get in there without a ticket (of course).
On to the game:
The Yankees would go on to win the game 9-8. They played most of their regulars until the 7th inning. Zach Duke was shelled by the Yankees, giving up 8 runs in 3.1 innings. Duke had been looking much better this spring until this start. Eric Hinske, Ryan Doumit, and Robinson Cano hit home runs in the game.
Here are some action shots:
AJ Burnett vs Freddy Sanchez
Nate McLouth takes a look at a pitch:
Ryan Doumit hits a ball to the right side:
Tampa Tribune Deck (if going to BP, you’d better have a Deck ticket!) Cano’s home run hit off the blue restaurant roof.
Stands to my right:
“The Boss” George Steinbrenner
George was taking in the game with Mr. October, Reggie Jackson:
“The Sandman” Mariano Rivera
Brett Gardner Caught Stealing:
Ex-Pirate Xavier Nady (The X-man!)
Tomorrow I’m headed back to Bradenton.