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
When the gates opened, I ran into the bleachers and immediately found ball #1, laying in the front row of section 138. I walked around in each section before turning my attention to the action on the field, and found another Easter egg in Section 136 about 5 rows back, it was ball #2.
The Pirates were hitting for about 10 more minutes, and then the Reds were going to hit. Near the end of the Pirates portion of Batting Practice, Karstens threw a ball to a kid about 6 rows back. Either the throw was a little off, and the kid completely missed the ball. It ricocheted right to me, ball #3. I was then faced with the choice of keeping the ball, or giving it to the kid. I decided to be charitable and glove flipped the ball to the kid, who thanked me.
The Reds then came out to hit. At the end of the Pirates portion of batting practice, a Pirate had thrown a ball into the crowd that someone misplayed. The ball was laying on the edge of the warning track. I didn’t even think about doing the glove trick, because it was directly in the sight line of a security guard.
I changed into my Reds gear, and stood in the front row directly in front of the ball, and waited. Jerry Hairston came over to left center field.
He walked over, and without hesitation flipped me ball #4.
Game: 8 Balls (4 hit, 4 thrown)
Season: 58 Balls (23 hit, 29 thrown, 6 device)
Games: 12 Games (10 with BP, 2 without)
Average: 4.83 Balls per Game
Career: 224 Balls