It was Sunday and we were back for our second of two games at Nationals Park.
It’s such a pretty stadium:
Wait, not really:
Actually, after talking it over, it was unanimous between myself, Amy, and fellow ballhawk Nick that this is now our least favorite stadium.
At least this was a Sunday game, and there was no giveaway, so it wouldn’t be crowded early. There was just one problem. As we stood in line, we watched the video board which shows a live feed of the field. There was no cage, and no activity at all going on. We stood in line and debated what to do. Finally, Amy asked the head supervisor if there was going to be batting practice, “Yeah, they’ll be out, I don’t know what time, but they’ll be out.” At first I thought he was just making it up and had no clue. But I decided that since we had stayed overnight, it would be a waste just to go home. I took the supervisor at his word, and at 10:58 AM, 2 minutes before the gates opened, bought us tickets.
When we entered the field, there wasnt much action.
The Nationals came out and warmed up, but there was a few ballhawks that joined me in the second deck today, and I was unable to get a ball.
To make matters worse, the Nationals didn’t take batting practice, so after an hour passed, I still had nothing to show for my efforts.
I was able to get ball #1 with an assist from fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak. He said he saw a coach take two balls and toss them into the empty seats in foul territory. So, at noon when the rest of the stadium, we ran over and Nick grabbed the first ball, and after looking around for the second, I spotted it under a seat three rows back. Thanks for the assist Nick.
It was a nice clean ball, so I didn’t number it. I’ve decided to stop numbering Easter Eggs and Glove Trick balls, since they have little to no importance except in my overall numbers. I’ve decided to hang onto them to either get them signed or sell eventually to finance some more trips.
Anyhow, this is the spot where I found ball #1:
The Reds finally started taking BP around noon, and I glove tricked my second ball from the gap in center field.
Before doing so, I looked around and there were no kids around at the time to hand the ball to, and no one was standing over the ball as if to ‘claim’ it. However, as soon as I started lowering my glove, this ballhawk went off and started screaming at the groundscrew who were fifty feet away in the center field service tunnel to get him the ball, in hopes that they would get it before I could:
What’s worse is that he’s a ballhawk, as he had Nationals stuff on and tried to get a ball in the second deck earlier, and then switched to Reds stuff in center field. Luckily, I glove tricked the ball on the first attempt before any staff member could retrieve it. Maybe he was mad because Nick owned him on a toss up in the second deck earlier, and saw Nick and I talking and figured we were friends. I don’t know.
That was it for batting practice. Before leaving I looked in the bullpen and saw that there were nine balls sitting there. Four were super easy glove trick balls directly below the overhang.
However, I didn’t even try. I waited patiently.
Eventually, Ryan Hannigan came out about twenty minutes after BP and tossed every single ball up to fans. I got the second one he tossed up for ball #4 on the day.
We left before the game started as it was a long drive back to Pittsburgh. I only snagged seven ball over the two games, but we still managed to have fun.
Olivia loves baseball trips and checking out the kids playgrounds in the different parks.
Here’s today’s baseballs:
Game: 4 balls
Season: 40 balls
Lifetime: 1584 balls
I got to PNC Park at around 10:45 AM, and the Pirates were already hitting. Such an early start meant that both teams would likely take batting practice. Sunday day games have always been a bit different, because there’s no season ticket holder time. The Riverwalk opens at 11 AM (2.5 hours early), and the bullpen to the lower seating bowl always opens at 11:30 AM. The rest of the gates open at noon. It’s always been done that way.
This Sunday was different.
Security came out at 10:50 AM, right on time and checked bags and unlocked the gates. However, no ticket scanners or gate supervisors showed up.
The gate supervisor showed a little bit before 11:30, and the gates to the Riverwalk opened at 11:30, that’s 2 hours before first pitch.
I went to the Pirates A to Z guide (link) and lifted this little nugget:
GATES OPEN Gates open one and one half hours (1 1/2) prior to game time (Monday through Sunday) and two hours on Opening Day. The Riverwalk will open two (2) hours before weekday (Monday-Friday) games and two and one half hours (2 1/2) prior to weekend (Saturday-Sunday) games.
Somone messed up. Maybe the A to Z guide isn’t current. But since bags were checked at 10:50 AM by security, and the gates unlocked ( then security left for 20 minutes, then came back at 11:30) makes me believe that not everyone is on the same page. Hopefully this gets ironed out because otherwise attending Sunday games aren’t really worth it for ballhawks.
It ended up basically ruining BP. We missed all of the Pirates and almost all of the Phillies BP.
I stood here during the Phillies portion of BP from 11:30-noon.
Since it was the only vantage point to watch BP for a half hour, there were lots of fans standing around in this spot. Three home run balls hit nearby, but I couldn’t get close enough to any of them. One of them I should’ve caught, but I was out of position attempting to reach a ball that was inside the gate with the Cleveland stick. It was out of reach anyhow.
When the park finally opened at noon, I went to center field and found two baseballs. The ushers are being kind and not confiscating all of the balls. Since I got the only two balls in the section, the usher asked me if I could give one to an elderly ballhawk, which I did.
After finding the balls in center field, I searched right field, but found nothing, so I spent the only 10-15 minutes of batting practice that I got to see in left field.
Of course it was super crowded.
Besides the two Easter Eggs, I got nothing else.
I headed to Cleveland this morning along with Amy, Olivia, and fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak. We left around 7:45 and after searching for affordable parking, got to the gates around 10:20, over an hour before they were to open.
The game was a 1:05 day game, and Progressive Field only opens 90 minutes open for day games, meaning that if there was batting practice, we’d miss half of it. It was a gamble, but it was worth taking as it’s early in the season.
The plan was to go there, and hope for loads of Easter Eggs that would be left behind by the Indians batters. I peered in and saw that the Indians were indeed hitting.
Nice, there would be Easter Eggs everywhere. Nick and I walked over to the Home Run porch and watched ball after ball land in the right field seats. Unfortunately, there was an usher pretending to wipe off seats who was going around and pocketing them all.
It was important to get on the board early, because we were going to get an abbreviated batting practice with the late gate times, and also there was a huge crowd lined up to get in.
All of the gates opened at 11:30, and I ran in. As I was looking for an Easter Egg, a home run landed a section to my right. I ran over to pick it up, as the only person around was an usher who was acting like he was wiping off seats. Well, the usher sprinted for the ball and grabbed it before I could. Perhaps realizing how over the top it was, he looked at it and then flipped it to me to put me on the board.
I found a second ball in the seats a few rows back before heading over to left field.
I should mention that the visiting Blue Jays were already hitting when the gates opened, so we missed at least half of BP.
I hate Progressive Field’s left field. It’s dangerously steep, and I always do poorly there. After getting shut out for a round, I headed back to right field.
While there, I watched a ball bounce into the trees in Heritage Park. I ran over and found it sitting just under the fence that separates the trees from the monuments.
In the Jays third group, which was all lefties, I caught a home run on the fly cleanly here:
And less than 20 seconds later corralled another home run that bounced off the concrete partition between the outfield wall and front row of seats here:
I failed to get anything else during batting practice. I thought I had a sixth one that I saw go into the trees at Heritage Park, but after a thorough search, I gave up. There were a couple teenagers there looking for the same ball, but none of us found it. After BP, I returned and systematically scanned every inch of the area behind this wall:
Eventually, I found it after BP had ended when I searched a second time. It was right up against the concrete out of view. It was my sixth and final ball of the day.
Amy, Olivia and I got up at 6AM today in order to drive to Baltimore to catch the Orioles home opener. Amy and Olivia had never experienced an Opening Day (Amy always has to work them) so they were both excited.
Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak teamed up with me on this trip, and we all left around 6:50 AM. After a stop, we arrived at the Camden Yards gates at 11:20 AM and were fourth in line.
It was pretty chilly today, so Nick and I played catch for a bit to stay warm while Amy and Olivia snuggled together. At 12 noon, all of the gates opened. Every gate in the park. There would be no season ticket holder only time today.
PNC Park did the same thing yesterday. However, Camden Yards opened their gates three hours early, while PNC Park opened theirs two.
Upon entering, the Orioles players were playing catch along the first base line, and had yet to begin batting practice.
I was able to get Matt Wieters to toss me ball #1 on the day. It helped that there weren’t many other fans around. Fellow ballhawk and Baltimore regular Matt Hersl congratulated me on the first ball of the 2012 season. He told me that ironically, he got the first ball of the 2011 season – from Matt Wieters.
Since I was the first one to get a ball, I decided to move back about 10 rows so the other ballhawks could try their luck. I also thought that maybe a player would see me in my Ripken jersey and long toss me. As I was walking up the stairs I spotted an Easter Egg.
It was only about three rows up, so it likely was an overthrow that the players had while warming up before the gates opened.
Anyhow, I headed out to left field once batting practice got under way. The first Orioles group didn’t display much power, but I did snag a ground rule double here:
It actually tipped off my glove, but I recovered to pick it up in the row in front of me.
As batting practice progressed, left field got more and more crowded, so I spent some time going back and forth between left field and center field.
While in center field I glove tricked ball #4:
and ball #5 from the gap:
I saw ball#5 get bobbled by fans in the front row while I was in left field. So, when I used the glove trick, I offered it to the fans nearby, asking if one of them had dropped it down there. They just smiled and shook their heads no. Nice people.
Near the end of the Orioles BP, I noticed that the Twins all came out to warm up. I made my way from center field to the third base line and was able to get this player to toss me ball #6. After throwing me the ball, he headed straight to third base to take grounders. Can I get some help on who this is?
After snagging the ball, I took a closer look at it, and it was an Orioles Park 20th anniversary commemorative ball. That made my day.
The Twins are very heavily left handed, so I spent their entire batting practice in center field. While there, I glove tricked another ball, after which an Orioles staff member came down to speak with me. He wanted to know what I was doing. I explained it to him and he told me how he thought I was lowering things down onto the field to get signed because of the pen that is attached to my glove. I told him, “I just use it to get the balls out of the gap, I’m not putting it on the field, is that ok?” He responded by telling me, “By all means, you’re more than welcome to do that. Me and a fellow employee we’re just wondering is all.”
Everyone is so nice on Opening Day.
It was my 8th ball of the day, which tied a personal best for me at Camden Yards. I had snagged eight there two other times. Batting practice was about over, so I headed over to the Twins dugout to try and get #9:
It didn’t happen though, but I was still more than happy with 8:
After BP, Amy, Olivia and I made our way to our seats.
Olivia had her own special seat that ‘the Easter Bunny’ brought her:
She really took everything in:
One of the cool things about Opening Day is the ceremonies that precede the game. Here are the Twins lining up on the field:
And the Orioles came out of the bullpen area on a long Orange Carpet:
Here’s a video of the Orioles introductions:
And the National Anthem. You always know you’re in Baltimore when the song reaches the “Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner…” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the Anthem:
It was a great Opening Day. The Orioles ended up winning the game 4-2. This was the view from our seats:
And here are today’s baseballs:
Amy bought me this shirt:
She’s the best!
Game: 8 Balls
Season: 13 Balls
Career: 1,557 Balls
Attendance: 46,773 (I think this may be the largest attended game I’ve ever been at)
Don’t forget about the Shirt giveaway – this Sunday.
Opening Day brings a new hope for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Every team starts fresh from scratch. Everyone is tied for first place.
It’s the same with us ballhawks. There’s a website, mygameballs.com, where everyone starts even at zero to begin the season.
Last year on Opening Day, I snagged 13 balls. The season ticket holder time came in handy, as I snagged 8 balls by 11:30. You can read about that day here.
However, the minutes ticked away, and 11:00 came and went. No security guards ever showed to unlock the gates or check bags. Eventually, some guy appeared and talked to the ticket scanners. The message he delivered was that the gate would open at 11:30 AM.
The line to get in had already swelled and split in two directions at the bridge.
Someone in charge had decided that there would be no season ticket holder time today. ALL GATES would open at 11:30 AM, so there would be a mass rush and the bleachers would fill up quickly.
I was really disappointed. To make matters worse, there was a relative of Manny Sanguillen’s who was allowed in the park before everyone else, and he went straight to the left field bleachers, so any balls that were in there, would be long gong.
When the gates opened and I ran in, the Phillies were already in the process of hitting. Noooo!
I ran up into the upper bleachers hoping that maybe there would be an Easter Egg hidden up there. When I did, I noticed a long fly ball head toward the left field wall. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak lined up to make the catch, but it fell short of the wall, hitting at the base of the wall and staying there. I quickly ran down and looked. The ball was directly below me. I quickly used the glove trick and reeled in my first ball of the day to get on the board. The whole glove trick took less than 10 seconds. I lowered it over the ball and pulled it right up. I was relieved because I knew that the day wouldn’t be completely ruined. Whenever any of us are facing a shut out it creates unnecessary anxiety that makes the whole ballhawking experience much less enjoyable.
Anyhow, the left field bleachers filled up fast. I only stayed there for the first group, and then headed over to right field, where it was drastically less crowded. Even though the stadium had been opened for 20 minutes, I still looked for Easter Eggs, and I found one:
The ball was hit yesterday by Garrett Jones. I made a mental note when I watched the ball hit the chain link fence, which basically killed all of the ball’s momentum. I watched from left field as the ball softly disappeared out of sight – it had either fallen behind the fence or in a seat. So, when I went to look, it was in the exact spot that I remembered. Sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to every little detail during BP.
This was my view for most of BP, as I stayed in right field, and tried for toss ups from Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Kyle Kendrick.
I failed to get them to throw me anything, but managed to snag a Laynce Nix homer. The ball was a mammoth fly, that I ran up and over a section to catch, but it was just beyond my reach. Luckily, it landed in a seat and plopped calmly and slowly out the bottom of the seat, where I simply picked it up.
After BP, I went and found my dad, who I attended this game with, and we went to Primanti brothers. The line was pretty long, so while he stood in line, I went to go get a First Pitch program and also to check out the Budweiser Bow Tie Bar, a new area built behind section 101.
Here’s the entrance:
Large fire pit warmers were located around the bar:
The bar has seven flat screen TVs:
And part of it faces the field:
Pretty nice. It displaces the Root Sports station, which moved a section closer toward home plate:
After the quick visit to the Bow Tie Bar, we made our way to our seats to eat our Primanti Brothers sandwiches:
And watch the introductions:
I didn’t try ballhawking- I just stayed in my seat for most of the game. I had a great view:
Near the end of the game, I ventured down to the main level to see Amy, who was working and this was the scene in left field:
Completely packed. The cross aisle was completely filled.
In fact, this was the largest ever crowd to ever take in a game at PNC Park. There were 39,585.
Lots of people came out to support their Buccos today.
Unfortunately, the Pirates laid an egg. They scored 0 runs. The first two batters, Alex Presley and Jose Tabata, had singles against Roy Halladay, and that was it. No other batter got a hitter after those two. Only two other batters reached base, by being hit by pitches. The Phillies won 1-0, as the Pirates start the season 0-1.
The Pirates have the hardest schedule in baseball. Look at their April and May schedule. They don’t play a team that had a losing record in 2011 until they face the Astros in mid May. All of the teams they play at the outset of the season were playoff teams or contenders last year. We just can’t catch a break.
Tomorrow, I’ll be up and early for a road trip and my second Home Opener in as many days.
Today was the last night game of the year, and Steve Miller Band was playing a concert after the game, so there would be a sell-out crowd on hand tonight. However, since there was some big cheerleading competition going on outside of PNC Park, there wasn’t a large crowd for most of batting practice.
I came into the game needing seven balls to get 418 and make my 2011 campaign a top 5 all time ballhawking season. Sure, it isn’t any close to the 544 I snagged last year, but its a small consolation prize.
Things got off really slowly for me, and I only snagged one ball within the first half hour of batting practice. That was a Pedro Alvarez opposite field home run that landed three rows back and took a giant hop into the upper bleachers, which I scrambled up the steps and grabbed.
My second ball of the day was glove tricked near the end of Pirates BP by the bullpen door.
Near the end of batting practice, things were going so poorly for me that I completely ditched left field and headed over into foul territory on the first base line as some Reds had come out to warm up.
There, I got who I think was Jared Burton to toss me ball #3 of the day after he finished his warm up tosses.
In the meantime, I noticed that Joey Votto was signing autographs near the dugout. I never ever go for autographs – I got only one other one this year – Ryan Vogelsong – but I figured that this was a former MVP and that his autograph was worth something. I got Votto to sign the sweet spot of a nice clean extra ball that I brought with me.
My fourth ball came a bit later as a pitcher airmailed Devin Mesoraco. I picked it up and offered it back, by holding it up, but they already had a second ball and picked up immediately where they left off as if they never even lost the ball, so I put it away in my bookbag.
My fifth ball came from Edinson Volquez, sort of. He caught the ball and rolled it towards the wall as if to get rid of it. I walked over and reached far over the railing and grabbed it. Then I held it up to see if Volquez or his teammates wanted it back. They could’ve cared less, as they were talking.
At 5:30, I searched the right field wall for Easter Eggs and found one.
It was ball #6 of the day, and #417 of the season, tying Nick Pelescak’s 2010 mark.
I then returned to left field and got a toss up from Dave Sappelt.
He retrieved a ball from the wall and then tossed it up into the crowd. I was in the second row, and it was right to me, just over the heads in the front row, much to the dismay of some 20 year old in the front row.
My 8th and final ball of the day was a clean catch of a Brandon Phillips home run ball. I caught that one in the second row, and it caused some controversy with another fan. The ball ticked off the fan in the McCutchen jersey’s glove and right into mine. It sounded like a foul tip being caught by the catcher.
Well, he thought I robbed him, even though I was a row behind him, and he kept giving me sour looks throughout the rest of BP, and talking to his friends and gesturing in my direction. Oh, and he’s not a little kid despite his tiny frame (its tough to tell from that pic)- he’s probably at least 20, and he already had a ball in his hand, so don’t feel bad.
Game: 8 balls (2 hit, 4 thrown, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 419 balls (175 hit, 92 thrown, 88 device, 57 found)
Games: 77 games
Average: 5.44 per game
Career: 1,541 balls
I decided to head to Cleveland after work today. Originally, I would’ve liked to have attended yesterday’s too, but I wasn’t feeling well and fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak was already in Cleveland and reported a rained out batting practice on Wednesday.
I left work and drove to Cleveland and didn’t get there until 4:50 PM. Batting practice had began at 4:30. When I arrived, I had a few bad breaks and didn’t snag anything for the first twenty minutes I was there. I didn’t even get to see the good Indians batters like Hafner, Thome, Santana or Sizemore. I was regretting even going. Why did I go? Well, I wanted to move up another spot on this list and make my 2011 season a top 5 season. By that I mean, the number of balls that I snagged would be fifth all time.
Last year I was the all time single season record holder with 544 before Zack Hample blew by me with a 30 stadium 130 game season.
Here’s the list:
My first ball of the day was a ball that bounced into the trees in Heritage Park. I ran over and found the ball waiting just under the wall, so I reached in and grabbed it before an usher came rushing down and started looking for it as well. I had already grabbed it, so I just left. Since when do ushers try to get balls out of the trees in Heritage Park?
My second ball of the day was a nice catch that took some effort. An Indians blasted a home run to my right. I ran up about seven rows and cut across into an empty row and caught it on the fly backhanded here:
The White Sox BP typically sucks in Cleveland because they don’t have too many good lefties, and all fans are confined to right field until 6PM on weekdays. Not a good combination. However, I had some more luck.
Ball #4 of the day was completely lucky and random. Will Ohman fielded a ball near the wall and flipped it up over his shoulder without looking. I was standing four rows deep right here:
And the ball was directly to me. I didn’t have to budge an inch. Later in BP, Ohman screamed at the crowd that he would get the balls on the field and keep them, and if they wanted a ball to catch a home run. There were dozens and dozens of kids screaming ‘HERE HERE HERE’ on every ball that was hit to right field. I can see why he was annoyed. Even more annoying, is that it pretty much ruined it for everyone. The White Sox pretty much completely stopped throwing balls into the crowd for the rest of BP.
At 6:00, I had thought about running over and getting a ball about 12 rows up in left field that all of the ushers had missed, but Nick Pelescak was going to be going for the same ball, so I decided to instead head into foul territory at 6.
There was some major competition there, as a big line of people, including several ballhawks rushed in to the seats. In my haste, I dropped my Cleveland Stick. I had a decided that I would run down and see if there’s any Easter Eggs, and then come back and grab it a minute later.
When I ran over I found ball #6. It wasn’t just any ball though… It was an Angels 50th Anniversary Commemorative Ball. Rare.
And weird, since neither of the teams had recently played the Angels. The White Sox played them last on August 24th.
I then went back to grab my Cleveland Stick but it was gone. Someone had stolen it. Or threw it away. It was a terrible loss. If you’re new to this blog, I use the Cleveland Stick to snag unreachable balls out of Heritage Park like this one:
Luckily today was my final game in Cleveland, so I’ll have a new device for next year.
After having no luck in left field, I made my way over to the White Sox dugout and waited for batting practice to be over. I usually never do this, but I couldn’t pass it up. Look how many White Sox fans were waiting to greet the team as they ran off the field:
As a result, I got third base coach to toss me ball #7. He’s about to duck into the dugout in the picture below (between the two fans):
After snagging my seventh ball, I left thereby closing the book on Cleveland for the 2011 season.
I made it home at exactly 9 PM and Amy and I watched the Season Premier of The Office.
Here’s today’s baseballs:
Game: 7 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown, 1 found, 1 device)
Season: 409 balls (173 hit, 86 thrown, 87 device, 56 found)
Games: 75 games
Average: 5.45 per game
Career: 1,531 balls