I wasn’t planning on attending this game. I was expecting to drop Amy off at work, and then go home to package up all of the bobbleheads that I had sold. Making batting practice more unlikely was the fact that it started to rain at 10:30 AM, a half hour before the gates were to open.
I could see the tarp on the field from the center field (Stargell statue) gate. I thought about leaving, but I thought I noticed that the screens were out on the field in foul territory.
utside the stadium, there were plenty of festivities, including the March of Dimes finish line, right outside the left field gate.
When I entered the stadium, my first ball of the day came from Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton by the bullpen.
When Morton had finished throwing, I called out for his warm up ball. A few seconds later, he tossed a ball up, which I caught. A thirteen year old in front of me was none too pleased, but I hadn’t heard him ask for it. I was going to give it to him until his dad started b*******. He got a ball a minute later anyhow.
The whole stadium opened at 11:30AM, and there was still no action. The tarp had at least been taken off the field, so I walked around the lower level looking for easter eggs, but predictably, there were none.
Since I was having good luck with the glove trick, I invited Jim to glove trick a ball on the warning track that I could’ve had. I figured I’d repay the favor for him laying off on a Miguel Cabrera home run catch yesterday.
I made my way over to center field near the end of the Tigers BP and glove tricked a ball off of the warning track. Originally, the ball bounced on the warning track, and I misplayed it. The ball hit my glove and fell back onto the field. There was a little girl right next to me, so when I glove tricked the ball, I turned and handed it to her.
Batting practice ended at 12:15 PM, (The Tigers didn’t take a full BP, they only hit for about 30 minutes) so there was an hour and fifteen minutes until the game was to begin.
I returned to the game, but was met with bad luck. Garrett Jones tossed his warm up ball to me in the 4th inning, but this guy in the white shirt interfered. The ball was glanced by his arm, hit my glove, and bounced below where a random fan grabbed it.
Basically the same thing happened in the fifth inning, when McCutchen threw his warm up ball to me. I was awaiting the catch in the handicapped section in center field when a guy jumped out of his seat and intercepted it.
Game: 6 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 4 device)
Season: 156 balls (60 hit, 36 thrown, 37 device, 22 found)
Games: 25 games
Average: 6.24 balls per game
Career: 1,278 balls
Today was Amy and my 8 month anniversary, and we packed in a full day’s worth of activities. We started by going around to garage sales and buying lots of clothes for our daughter. There were some pretty nice things that we found that looked ‘like-new.’
Today was also Neil Walker bobblehead day, so a sellout crowd of 38,000 would be on hand. Therefore, it was important to get on the board early. When I ran into the left field bleachers, I found ball #1 laying in the front row in this area.
Nick had the lead, but we both took a wrong route to the ball. Since it wasn’t at the bottom of the rotunda, I figured it was on the rotunda. I raced up and was correct. It was sitting on the rotunda, waiting to be claimed. Amy got this shot of us returning from the chase.
My third ball of the day was a clean catch in the front row of section 134. I had to reach out over the wall and make the catch as there was some pressure put on me from the side. I reached out and swiped at the ball and luckily made the catch.
It was a particular sunny day, and I lost two balls in the sun. One would’ve been an easy grab, and it zipped by my head. The other I would’ve made on a cloudy day. That’s one of the negatives of PNC Park. Left field is the sun field, so folks in left get blinded by the sun, especially on fly balls.
Check out the crowd:
That’s the downfall of PNC Park’s bleachers. There’s not much room when it gets crowded. There’s about six rows in the bleachers, and they get packed, severaly limiting a ballhawk’s range.
I did get ball #4 with the glove trick in left field before heading over to center field.
The guy in the red shirt, who’s usually aggressive, backed off and let me make the catch. I appreciated it, as I probably would’ve missed it had he tried for it. It was a ball I had to reach high and to my left to catch, as it was slicing back towards right field.
My seventh and final ball came at the conclusion of BP. The Tigers left a ball on the warning track in left field, so I went over and glove tricked it for my seventh ball of the day.
After BP, I went to turn in 54 tickets for Neil Walker bobbleheads. I traded in a bunch of my season tickets so I could turn a profit on the bobbleheads. I made the mistake of pulling out the tickets and counting how many I had. As soon as I did, I was surrounded by people waving twenty dollar bills at me, offering to buy my tickets. The game was sold out, so there was nothing left at the box office. I relented and sold twenty of the tickets within 5 minutes. So, I went back to my car with a pocket overflowing with cash and 34 bobbleheads. Amy and I headed home to spend the rest of the evening baseball free.
Game: 7 balls (3 hit, 3 device, 1 found)
Season: 150 balls (59 hit, 35 thrown, 33 device, 22 found)
Games: 24 games
Average: 6.25 balls per game
Career: 1,272 balls
Batting practice today was rough for me. The Tigers were in town for an interleague matchup, which would lead to larger crowds. During the Pirates batting practice, I ended up doing this for much of the time:
I would not catch a single batted ball or get any balls thrown to me from the Pirates pitchers.
I slowed down a bit after that, trying to be more careful, especially because Amy was at the game with me. She hates to see me get hurt, and I didn’t want to upset her.
I didn’t get a single ball during the Pirates batting practice, so I changed into my Tigers gear, hoping maybe to at least have a ball tossed to me.
However, luck continued to elude me. Here’s a home run ball that would be caught by a child in the front row.
It was my first ball of the day, and it was about 5:25PM. A few minutes later, the rest of the stadium would open, and I had been keeping tabs on a ball that was sliced into the seats down the left field line. The only problem was, there was a bunch of other folks waiting to get the green light to run up the stairs to the ball. The people I was up against had the advantage of running up escalators, while I chose to go with the steps in the middle, which meant I’d have to run twice as fast as them. I ended up being the first person to the top of the stairs to reach the main level, and raced down to the lower level, where I found ball #2 waiting for me.
I wouldn’t snag another ball for the rest of batting practice.
After batting practice ended, the Tigers left a ball on the warning track. They had run off the field, so I set up my glove trick:
Lowered it over the ball,
And pulled it in (after a couple readjustments with the rubber band)
Here are today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 3 balls (2 device, 1 found)
Season: 143 balls (56 hit, 35 thrown, 30 device, 21 found)
Games: 23 games
Average: 6.22 balls per game
Career: 1,265 balls
My dad and I left Osceola County Ballpark early to attend the Tigers vs Braves game at Champion Stadium at 6:05. I figured that the gates would open at 4. We arrived a little after 3:30.
Game: 2 Balls
Spring Training Career: 22 balls in 5 games.
After leaving PNC Park around 1:25, I made it to Progressive Field in Cleveland, and was in line at 3:32. I was second in line. This would be my second game of the day.
When I ran in, I didn’t find any easter eggs on the ground. I paced up and down each aisle and did manage to find ball #1 and ball #2 laying in seats. The second ball was an International League (AAA) ball – which the Tigers are known to use in lieu of major league baseballs. I was pretty happy because I didn’t have any of these yet this year. After snagging 300 some regular major league baseballs this season, any variation is a welcomed departure from the mean.
Within the span of a minute, I lost out on three home run balls in center field. All three balls bounced on this six foot wide concrete platform seperating the outfield wall from the seats:
The balls took huge hops and landed about 15 rows back, and I wasn’t able to get to any of them in time.
Ball #3 was thrown by an Indians pitcher (standing on the left of the two pitchers).
I had competition from behind, with two guys trying to reach other the seats to grab the ball. I got to the ball a split second before them, snatching it with my bare hand. Guess what? Another Metrodome commemorative!
Things then slowed way down for me. I wouldn’t get another ball for the next half hour.
I watched Miguel Cabrera pepper the left field bleachers with home run balls. There was only one usher there picking them all up, and he had his work cut out for him.
One of Cabrera’s homers nearly hit th
e scoreboard. It landed in the very top row of the bleachers (as marked by the red X in the picture below.)
At 6:00, I ran over to those left field bleachers to look for some easter eggs that the usher potentially may have missed. I searched the rows at the bottom, and watched as one teenager found one. I then ran up towards the top of the bleachers, and found this waiting for me, three rows from the top.
Yes, another Metrodome ball – my fifth commemorative of the day, and ball #9.
Things in left field weren’t going well, so I made my way back over to right field as the final lefties were finishing up.
Curtis Granderson ( i think – a black left handed batter ) – hit a deep home run to my left in right field. Again, it was going to be about two sections over, so I put my head down and ran over to where I judged it was going to land. I ended up making a really nice catch on the run for ball #10 of the day. I got a nice hand from the few people that were still in right field watching batting practice. It was also my fifth consecutive Metrodome ball snagged, and my sixth commemorative of the day.
Two pitches later, Granderson hit another home run to right field. This ball was high in the air, and I had plenty of time to weave and correct my route so I’d be in the right spot. I caught the ball with a basket style catch for ball #11. It was the last hit of BP, as the Tigers then ran off the field. I quickly snapped this picture right after batting practice ended to show all the room I had.
I love weekday batting practices at Progressive Field.
I left after batting practice, happy that after snagging 14 yesterday, I had snagged 15 today (albeit over 2 games). It was a new “one-day” record for me.
On my way out of the stadium, I had a few reminders from the trees that fall was here, and baseball season was almost over.
Farewell Progressive Field – See you next year
Game: 11 balls (8 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 390 balls (208 hit, 117 thrown, 65 device)
Games: 78 games (9 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.00 balls per game
Career: 556 balls
Streak: 93 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Race for 400 in 2009: Need 10 in 3 games, 3.33 per game
Today was a dreaded Sunday afternoon game. Batting practice is always questionable on a day game after a night game. Luckily, the cages were set up when I arrived.
The Tigers were the only team to take batting practice today. When they started, there was only one player in left field doing all of the snagging.
The created a great chance for a glove trick ball. A ball rolled to the wall, and I reeled the ball in for ball #1 of the day.
Another ball rolled to the warning track, but I ruined my chance at it. I threw my glove out, and took one mighty tug on the string to get the ball close to the wall. The problem was, that the ball rolled underneath a 6 inch indentation at the bottom of the wall. I looked down and the ball was gone, tucked underneath the padding. I tried swinging my glove out and slamming it into the ball to try to get it to bounce out. It did a little bit, but not quite enough. I tried this about six times when I heard someone yell in my direction. “HEY!!” Startled, I pulled my glove up and stopped. I looked over and it was Pittsburgh’s own Jim Leyland. He had a big smile on his face. He walked over, picked the ball up, and handed it to a little kid on my left. The kid tried to give me the ball. I wouldn’t accept it. The kid’s father tried to give me the ball, “we have a whole bag of them here, seriously.” I wouldn’t accept it. “I’ll get one,” I said, “I like to earn them.” He was shocked. I heard him telling his wife about how I wouldn’t take the ball.
There was a ball on the center field warning track that I had my eye on that was untouched for at least 5 minutes. I decided to go over and glove trick it. When I got there, I managed to get the ball close enough to the wall to do the trick. Just then, Justin Verlander came over and said, “I need that.” He took the ball and threw it towards Joel Zumaya, who was back at shagging pop ups in deep left center. Verlander would throw a ball in his direction as soon as a pop up was hit, trying to confuse or possibly injure Zumaya. I’ve never seen such wreckless behavior from a team during batting practice.
I stood in the third row where Zumaya and Edwin Jackson were catching the fly balls, hoping for an over-hit. It didn’t happen.
Instead, a Tigers righty hit a deep home run to section 138 that I caught on the fly. It was ball #2 of the day.
That was it for batting practice.
During the game, I had to get up and move my seat three times because it was so crowded. There were no empty seats, so I stopped trying to get the outfielders’ warm up balls between innings.
Game: 2 Balls (1 hit, 1 device)
Season: 176 Balls
Games: 34 Games (4 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.18 Balls per Game
Career: 342 Balls
I had been in a slump over the past two days, botching or missing opportunities on 9 balls. Usually, when players go into slumps, they break out of it in a big way. That’s what happened to me today.
I was the first one into the bleacher area. I was looking for Easter Eggs, but couldn’t find any. Just then, I noticed a ball roll into foul territory and up against the fence near the handicapped seats in foul territory.
As I got to the spot, I noticed a ball in this somewhat creepy hallway.
I quickly grabbed ball #1, caught a glimpse of something at the end of the hallway, and made my way to the field area to grab the ball that originally brought me into foul ground.
Someone had left this utility fence open,
After a few fly balls, he turned and flipped a ball, no-look style, into the crowd. Most of the people around didn’t see it at first. I did, and grabbed ball #10. Double digits. Ballpark domination.
I caught ball #11 on one of Van Slyke’s over hit fly balls. I had to stand up on a bleacher to catch the ball. I had tied my pe
Then, some d-bag came and said, “Alright, you’ve got your share. I’m going to shut you down. I need one for my son. See Jimmy, I’ve got him boxed out.” I just stared at the guy. He was some 5’7″ guy wearing a yellow Pirates shirt, and he didn’t even have a glove. I stared right at him. He had no chance against me. I’m 6’5″.
His son kept screaming, “Give me the ball!” I was hoping he wouldn’t get one.
Soon, Van Slyke over hit another ball. I didn’t have to move much, and caught the ball once again, with the assistance of standing on the bleacher, for ball #12.
I made sure to rub the ball up and carefully inspect it in front of the d-bag that was going to “shut me down.” He just looked and then moved around me to the other side that I had just caught the ball.
His son then got a ball from Joel Zumaya. It was an International League ball, a minor league ball. The kid started whining and complaining.
I stayed in this area for almost the entire batting practice. A few minutes later, Zumaya started trying to rob home runs. Van Slyke over hit another one. I was right there, catching ball #13 on the fly. At this point I could hear people around me whispering, “How many is that for that guy?”
Zumaya and Jackson took their home run robbing act a bit over into left field and away from the 410 sign near the bullpen, where I had just snagged those 4 balls. I was going to follow them, but it was insanely crowded.
Seriously, I’ve never seen a batting practice this crowded at PNC Park.
Not even on opening day was it this crowded during batting practice. I’m used to having an entire row open to my left and right, so I can have some range. There would be none of that today.
Batting practice ended a few minutes later. I tried to get balls during the game, but it wasn’t happening.
There was a near sell out crowd. Over 31,000 were in attendance.
The left field bleachers were packed.
The center field and right field seats were packed.
Heck, the whole stadium was packed.
Which is something we’re not used to here in Pittsburgh.
I left after the 5th inning to get some dessert for my wife and I.
Here’s a look at today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Top performances at PNC Park: (double digits)
1) 13 Erik J 6-13-09
2) 11 Erik J 4-21-09
2) 11 Matt G 9-20-08
3) 10 Bryan P 6-1-09?
3) 10 Erik J 5-5-09
Game: 13 Balls (12 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 174 Balls (84 hit, 67 thrown, 24 device)
Games: 33 Games (4 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.27 Balls per Game
Career: 340 Balls
Competition Factor: 408,343
Today was game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals featuring the Penguins vs the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, all the fans that weren’t able to get tickets to the game in Detroit seemingly decided to take the the 5 hour trip to see this baseball game. There were Detroit fans everywhere. Many of them were probably making the pilgrimage to see PNC Park for the first time, since its an interleague game, its not often that the Tigers come to Pittsburgh.
If today was a test of my ballhawking abilities, I would’ve failed. Despite being the first one into the bleacher area, I didn’t notice an Easter Egg that was right in front of my friggin face, I had two home run balls pop out of my glove, and I half heartedly went after a ball that ended up bouncing over the fence and skipped past my glove by about two feet. Had I actually gone for the ball, it would’ve been an easy catch. 4 balls – botched.
I did get one ball during the Pirates portion of batting practice. Craig Monroe hit a home run to my left that I could tell was going to be way over my head. I ran to my right and up the stairs under the bleachers. The ball bounced and hit off the concourse roof and settled near a garbage can. I reached down and grabbed ball #1.
Ball #2 came from an unknown Tigers batter. It was a deep fly ball that bounced on the warning track and right into my glove 4 rows back. I received a couple awkward high fives from Detroit fans, “That’s how we roll in Detroit,” some guy said. He must have thought I was from Detroit on account of my Tigers hat and shirt.
After misplaying two balls, I caught a Miguel Cabrera home run on the fly in the second row of section 136. I made sure that I squeezed ball #3 so it wouldn’t pop out.
That was all I got during batting practice. It was becoming annoying crowded.
To make matters worse, Andy Van Slyke was messing around the entire batting practice with the pitchers. He was hitting deep fly balls to the wall so that the pitchers could leap and make home run robbing catches. He must’ve hit 20 balls into the crowd. I’ve never seen anything so stupid and dangerous. Edwin Jackson, Joel Zumaya, and Dontrelle Willis were all taking turns risking their bodies and careers by jumping against the fence and robbing these home runs.
I tried to catch one for about 5 minutes, but I was too annoyed because it was real crowded around the area that Van Slyke was hitting to (left center field, near the bullpen). I was waiting for one of the pitchers to twist an ankle.
It was distracting because it was almost as if two batting practices were occurring simultaneously.
After batting practice ended, I didn’t get another ball until the 4th inning.
I sat on the right field wall for the first four innings.
Game: 4 Balls (3 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 161 Balls (72 hit, 66 thrown, 24 device)
Games: 32 games (4 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.03 Balls per Game
Career: 327 Balls
With the Pirates on the road for a full week, I decided to add two games at Progressive Field. I checked the weather today and since the forecast was favorable, I hopped in my car and took the 2:15 drive to Cleveland.
Since it was Saturday, I had some things working against me:
1) Gates don’t open until 5:30 on weekends
2) Cliff Lee bobblehead day
3) The skies darkened up and it looked like it was going to storm.
When I arrived at Progressive Field around 4, the cage was set up, but I was afraid BP would be wiped out due to the menacing dark clouds. (The lights were on at the stadium).
I walked to the box office and bought the cheapest ticket I could, $9. I then made my way back to the right field gate. It was about 4:15, and a large crowd was gathering. I was about 15th in line. It turns out that there were hundreds of people there for faith night. They were going to hear testimony from Indians player Jamey Carroll.
Imagine my surprise when a supervisor announced that they would be opening the gates an hour early at 4:30! Thank you Jesus!
And stood in line for 10 minutes to buy a cheeseburger combo meal for $9.25.
When the game started I first sat by the foul pole in right field.
But eventually moved to the left field home run porch. Notice all of the fans are standing at the fence.
If a home run were hit, they would have a slim chance of catching it. I stood by the garbage cans, awaiting a home run that would never come.
The Tigers won the game 4-0.
A look at today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 5 Balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 89 Balls (35 hit, 44 thrown, 10 device)
Games: 17 Games (14 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.24 balls per game
Career: 255 Balls