The day didn’t start off on the right foot, as I was a few minutes late to batting practice. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak already had seven balls by the time I entered the stadium. Amazing.
I had some work to do to catch up, as we began the week tied atop the standings of the Ballhawk League (BHL).
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge have been hitting in the last group of Pirates. So, for the 10-15 minutes that we get to see the Pirates hit, at least there’s some right handed semi-power hitters in the group.
I got ball #1 off the bat of Andrew McCutchen. It was a home run that landed in an empty section to my right that I ran over and grabbed.
Soon after, Lastings Milledge hit a ball onto the Rotunda that I ran up the ramp to snag as it slowly rolled down towards me. That would be it for the Pirates portion.
Luckily, the Brewers have been good to me lately. I changed into my Brewers gear.
And then would get started on a nice roll in an empty park.
“I’d better get my glove on,” I thought. No less than seconds after I had my glove on my
hand, Duke delivered his second pitch of the game. Weeks hit a slicing fly ball foul, directly at me. I immediately stood up and went into ballhawk mode. I took several steps to my left and made the clean catch on the fly. It was my first foul ball since snagging my first last year on September 23, 2009.
Upon catching the ball I did a fist bump and a little bit of celebration, which must have caught the eye of Tim Neverett and Bob Walk, who commented on the catch. It was also enough to get FSN to cut back to me.
Someone in the Pirates brass must have seen the catch, because moments later I was approached by a Pirates representative with a mic in hand. He introduced himself, congrulated me on my catch, and explained that he would like to invite me to be on the PNC Park game show “Know Your Buccos,” at the end of the second inning.
As instructed, I went over in the middle of the second and chatted with Joe Klimchak, who explained the game that I would be participating in. Basically, four ‘fun’ facts about a Pirate are presented, and the participant must eliminate the false answer.
When we went live, Joe introduced me, telling the crowd about the foul ball I had just snagged, and explained how I could win the fabulous prize (a $65 Pirates sweatshirt.)
I had to figure out which of the following facts were false regarding Ronny Cedeno:
I knew the Vizquel fact was probably true, given they are both Dominican. I also figured that Old School sounded like a type of movie that a man of Cedeno’s age would enjoy. I was torn between the First Job and the name of his cat.
I thought it over and just thought, “Who would name their cat Meow?” “Come here Meow… that would just sound stupid.” So I eliminated the cat named Meow.
After a few pressure filled seconds, it was revealed that Ronny does not have a cat named Meow, I had eliminated the false answer, and won the $65 jacket.
If you’d like to check out a video of my Know Your Buccos spot, you can check out the youtube link below.
I went back to my seat and watched the rest of the game, glove in hand.
Lightning wouldn’t strike twice. Would it?
Well it did.
Andrew McCutchen came up to bat in the fifth inning.
He fouled off a pitch in the same spot as the Week’s foul ball. I shot up out of my chair immediately when I saw the angle the ball took off the bat. This time, the ball was dying on me. It didn’t quite reach me, as it was about a row and a half ahead of me. I reached down and got it to hit my glove and knocked it into the row directly below me. I would liken the play to a catcher smothering a ball in the dirt. The ball came to a dead stop and I picked up my second foul ball of the day. Amazing.
Would I go on to catch my thirteenth ball of the night? A third foul ball in the game?
It was certainly empty enough for it to happen, as the Pirates were getting blown out, and the weather had turned cold.
There’s probably more fans at high school baseball games, but that’s Pittsburgh on week nights for you. Low, low attendance, especially after 10PM, like it was in the picture above.
I would end the night with those two foul balls, a sweatshirt, twelve total balls snagged, and probably the best ballhawking performance of my career.
Game: 12 balls (10 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 51 balls (34 hit, 7 thrown, 6 device, 4 found)
Games: 8 games
Average: 6.38 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 2
Career: 629 balls
Streak: 104 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
2009 through 8 games: 31 (Currently I am 20 balls ahead of last year’s career high season pace)
I checked the weather forecast in the morning and saw that there was a 15% chance of rain between 3-5 PM. Good enough for me. I went to Cleveland.
There was some rain that I ran into on the way there, but when I got to Cleveland, the streets were dry. Apparently it had rained a few hours before. Surely there would be batting practice.
I figured that I might as well. I went and stood in line while the bright sun shone down. Surely they’d take the tarp off.
The tarp stayed on. I listened to the gate worker talk about how there was a 90% chance the game would be canceled due to thunderstorms, and that it would be made up tomorrow. I thought about just going home.
I had a build a pretty nice streak of games with at least one ball, dating back to August 2008, and I didn’t want to lose it. But I figured I’d put it on the line.
When the gates opened, I ran in. There were no other ballhawks here today. Just a few old ladies and a couple little kids in line. I looked for Easter Eggs. I figured maybe a coach was hitting fly balls before the stadium opened, and maybe one went into the stands.
I looked for a few minutes before finally finding a soaked ball in the front row by the bullpen. How did this get here? Maybe it was from the night before or earlier this morning? No matter, I was on the board with ball #1.
A few seconds after I picked up ball #1, a teenager appeared from beneath the bullpen roof and rolled ball #2 across the roof to me. Totally unasked for, but definitely appreciated.
It helped that the stadium looked like this.
Since the stadium was so empty, when the Progressive Insurance car shot
off its Tshirt and Scarf around 4:45, I was able to get both of them.
They were pretty nice. No annoying ads on them.
I got my final ball of the day at 4:47. It came from a kid maybe 8-10 years old wearing a “Willis 51” jersey. He was the pitching coach’s son, I think. The teenager in the picture is the kid who threw me ball #2.
A ball had gotten away from one of the Brewers’ pitchers and they left it in center field after they went inside. When the Willis brothers were coming out of the bullpen, I asked for the ball. They threw me the ball they were using and kept the ball that was in center field. No problem. It was ball #4.
I stayed until about 6:30, and the tarp stayed on the field the entire time. I decided to leave, because I had a trip planned to go to Baltimore the next day.
The game ended up being delayed 49 minutes. On the way home, I faced mother nature’s fury, a trifecta of lightning, hail, and tornados. It was bad.
And the sweet spots:
Game: 4 Balls (4 thrown) – (the EE had to have been thrown into the stands since there was no BP)
Season: 192 Balls (94 hit, 71 thrown, 27 device)
Games: 37 Games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.19 Balls per Game
Career: 358 Balls