Tagged: Erik Jabs

Spring is here in PA!

In Pennsylvania and across the country, records are being set for warmth.  It was 77 degrees in Milwaukee today.  81 in Chicago.  I checked my phone, it was 73 degrees outside.  I asked Amy if she wanted to go hit, she said ‘Of course!’  We went to a local little league park for 11-12 year olds.  Its three fields in one giant space, so there’s really no fences to gauge distance or power, but I just wanted to get some swings in.

I was stuck using my new bat, which I hate.

It’s BBCore so it acts like a wooden bat rather than my old illegal 34 inch 30 ounce bat that balls flew off of like golf balls.  That bat, if you remember, met its death in December of 2011 when it broke while facing minor league pitcher Matt Barnes.

I had brought 17 balls with me to the park, and was focusing on making solid contact.

For the most part, I started terribly.  I kept yanking grounders into foul territory.

I guess I could blame the winter months for the rust.  Possibly the gym.  The bat felt like a wiffle ball bat, so I was out in front of a lot of my self-tosses.

Things came together in my last six swings or so as I started to find my home run swing.

I had one bomb that rolled up the hill behind left field – it was my last hit of round 1.

I had enough energy for another round, but I wanted to make things more interesting, so I headed to right field and hit towards the third base dugout to give myself a fence/target.

I’d say it was only about 275′, so it wasn’t too hard to hit some homers.

I had never tried hitting in this area of the field before, but it was fun.

I like putting on a show for Olivia and Amy.

Here’s a couple more pics and then we’ll wrap this up:

Amy’s favorite pic:

My farthest hit:

Check out the 10 day forecast for Pittsburgh:

Who needs spring training when we have Florida weather here now!

What’s everyone doing to enjoy this nation wide warmth?

On another note, I organized all of my Reds Season Tickets on my lunch break:

And Pirates tickets.

I tear them all out, put each game in its own envelope and sort them by date and venue.

This helps since I do a lot of exchanges.

Can you believe Opening Day is only 22 days away?  And you have until Sunday to win this CC Sabathia shirt!

Pitching Machine

Winter is my least favorite season of the year.  Besides not being able to enjoy baseball, because I live in Pennsylvania, I have to brave snow and cold temperatures for at least three months of the year.  However, this winter has been much milder than I can remember.  We’ve had some light snowfalls, but nothing that’s caused any transportation problems.  In fact, many districts in the area haven’t even had a two hour delay yet this year.

Yesterday the high temperature reached 61 degrees.  The normal high for the end of January is in the mid-30’s.  I decided to take advantage of the weather and take some swings.

The last time I hit was in early to mid December and I hadn’t picked up a bat in weeks.  I wanted to practice a little bit so when the summer comes I won’t be awful.

For my birthday last year Amy bought me a pitching machine.  It pitches golf ball sized wiffle balls at speeds of up to 60 MPH.

The machine can also do soft toss, or throw curves, sliders, and cutters.  I used it to train for the Pirates in door batting practice session by putting it about 30 feet away, setting it at 60mph, and just trying to make contact.  As a result, in the cage later that day, I didn’t miss a pitch.

I tried to pick up where I left off, setting up the machine maybe 30-40 feet away.

I used the corner of the tennis court as my home plate.

The first round didn’t go so well.  I took mighty swings, trying to hit the ball over the fence that would be equivalent to left field.

But I was too rusty and the machine was too fast.  In fact, my swing felt like a mess.  I’d spent the winter lifting weights, so my swing didn’t feel fluid anymore.

I turned the pitching machine down to a lower speed, and began to finally began to make some solid contact.

Ater about 2.5 rounds and 250 swings later, I packed up the stuff and Olivia, Amy and I went for a walk through the park to enjoy the nice weather.

Including Olivia’s first ever experience of seeing a stream.

I hope the rest of you are enjoying the warm weather, since most of the country has had a really mild winter.

There’s only 64 more days until Opening Day, 17 days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, and 4 more days to win this Matt Wieters shirt.

PNC Park Batting Practice

One of the perks that the Pirates offer is the opportunity to take batting practice inside of the PNC Park batting cages.  The Pirates usually have an outdoor field day, where fans take batting practice on the field – I participated in that in September.  In the winter, they invite the fans to take BP in the cages.

I took two rounds of BP of 10 pitches each.  I went 20 for 20 hitting every ball that I faced.

Here’s a video of my second round:

There were two cages, one for grown ups which was set to fast speed, and one that flipped balls up there at about 30 mph for the kids.  I went into the fast one of course.

The only thing I didn’t like was that my follow through kept hitting the net, making it a bit awkward.

After hitting Amy, Olivia and I went up into the hall of fame club to eat some light refreshments.  Daniel McCutchen and Brad Lincoln were there, but I didn’t go up and say anything to them, especially since McCutchen seems to dislike the serious ballhawks.

Olivia was very well behaved and wasn’t phased at all by the crack of the bat.

Ballfields of PA: Washington Park

Recently, I visited a ballfield that I used to play on quite a bit.  When I attended college at Washington & Jefferson, I would often drive to Washington Park to hit some baseballs.  I hadn’t been back to this field since 2003, so since Amy, Olivia and I were in the area – we decided to pay a visit.

Washington Park is a pretty big park, and the baseball field is near the main entrance, behind the tennis courts.

This is the view from behind the left field fence.  Not much had changed here in 8 years except for a newer fence.

Here is a view from behind the pitchers mound:

You can see that there are trees behind the plate and also in foul territory, thereby making it possible to lose your foul balls.  The park is surrounded by a small cliff though, which should help in narrowing down the areas that you’ll have to search.

By the way, have a look at the dugouts.  Meh:

Rather than doing a panorama, I took a picture of each field from home plate.

Looking out towards left field:

To center field:

And to right field:
The field has some decent dimensions.   However, they aren’t marked, so I brought a tape measure to make sure that I could get an accurate reading.

Left Field is 305 feet.  Center field is about 340.  Right field is 305.

It was time to hit and see if I could still take one out of here.  The goal for the day was to smash one off of the scoreboard beyond the left field fence:

I used to do that on occasion back in the day and scare the heck out of tennis players who were standing several feet away.  It makes a loud bang similar to a gunshot.

Amy and Olivia stood nearby and took some great action photos.

I’m not sure if it’s because I have been visiting these parks and hitting more frequently, or because I’ve been hitting the gym on a regular basis – but I was launching balls today.

Ball after ball sailed over the left center field fence.

Here is a video that Amy took of a home run that clears the scoreboard in left field.  If you watch it on full screen, you’ll see it land and basically stay put since the grass was so soft.  I also say, “Scoreboard! Scoreboard!”  Anticipating the loud boom – but the ball cleared it.  Olivia offers some color commentary at the end.  If you have 11 seconds, here you go:

The only balls that didn’t go out today, were line drives that I slightly got on top of.

I ended up taking twenty swings.  Eleven of those swings resulted in home runs being hit over the left field fence.  What a round!

And, by the way, I did hit one of the eleven off of the scoreboard.  On my third to last swing.  Mission accomplished.  Here’s the ball:

Condition:  C
Dimensions: A
Location/Surrounding Area: C+
Parking/Access: A

The field isn’t exactly in a picturesque location, but parking is easy.  You just have to walk a little ways around the tennis courts to the field.  The only way into the field is to walk the whole way down to the dugouts and enter by the on deck circle, as the entire field is encircled by a fence.  I like the dimensions of the field, but it appears that the field isn’t extremely well taken care of.  Granted, its the fall – but even if the grass was well manicured and the infield had been dragged, the field just wouldn’t look that great to me.

By the way, prior to going to Washington Park, Amy took me to the Washington Animal Shelter to volunteer.  We were going to take a dog on a walk.

We went back into the cages and looked at all of the poor homeless dogs.  There was a lot of barking and noise, but Olivia didn’t seem to mind.

Finally, we selected Shadow, a 10 year old German Shepherd whose family had to give her up because they lost their jobs and home.

Here were are taking a walk.

It brought back memories of my two German Shepherds that I had when growing up.

Links to other fields that I’ve hit at and reviewed for the Ballparks of PA Series:
Riverfront Park, Boston
Wylie Park, Elizabeth
Peterswood Park, Peters Township

4-13-11 Fox News

I was interviewed on Fox News regarding the Youtube video that I filmed on Saturday.

Around 9:15 AM, a limo picked me up at work.  Amy came along too to share in the experience.  Here I am, in the limo, feeling a bit nervous.
DSC01282.JPGI would be live to the entire nation in about a half hour. 

We arrived at the downtown Fox News Pittsburgh studio and were told where to go.

When we entered the studio, there was a fake background, a TV camera, a bunch of lights, a camera man, and a producer waiting for me.  We talked for a moment about what I’d be discussing, and then I had a seat and got mic’d up.
DSC01291.JPGI also got an earpiece put in my right ear, as the camera man told me how to work the volume.
DSC01296.JPGI couldn’t hear the producer from New York very well, so I jammed my earpiece in, and turned up the volume as high as it would go.
DSC01297.JPGAfter one final adjustment to my microphone, we would be ready to go.
DSC01299.JPGAmy sat to my side, just off camera.  It was nice to have her there.  It made me feel less nervous to have some support.
DSC01302.JPGThe interview itself was a blur.  The producer told me to animated and energetic.  He told me to pretend like I just had lots of caffeine. 

Martha MacCallum from America’s Newsroom interviewed me live on the air.  Fox News showed the video, and then Martha began interviewing me.  She basically asked me what I saw and what led up to the tasering and beating of the man in the USA Jacket.  It seemed like the interview was over rather quickly.  Overall, I was pleased with how it went.
DSC01304.JPGAfterwards, Amy and I were taken back to my work by the limo.

If you’d like to see the full interview, click HERE

3-20-11 First Baseball of the Spring

This past weekend, I was able to play my first baseball of the spring. 
Nick and Bryan Pelescak and I got together for a round of home run derby
at a field in South Fayette.  Amy came along and took a few pictures.

We did three rounds of home run derby.  The first round consisted of 15
outs, and the other two rounds were ten outs each.  Any swing that
didn’t result in a home run was considered an out.

It was a pretty close contest, with the final score being Me 9 HR, Bryan Pelescak 8 HR, and Nick 4 HR.

The dimensions of the field were about 300 feet to left field, that’ pretty much where we all hit the entire time.

Here’s some pictures that Amy snapped from the bench.

Nick Pelescak pitching:
DSC00740.JPGMaking contact, hitting a line drive:
DSC00742.JPGOne of two home runs that I hit in round one:
DSC00759.JPGPitching to Bryan Pelescak
DSC00772.JPGBryan connects for a homer:
DSC00785.JPGMe heading to the outfield:
DSC00791.JPGNick Pelescak taking a swing:

DSC00804.JPGNick following through:
DSC00842(2).jpgNick delivering another pitch:
DSC00847.JPGStaying on the pitch:
Bryan launches one to left:
Nick scorches one down the third base line:
DSC00878.JPGHitting a homer in my final round:
DSC00895.JPGThe score going into the final round was 6-6 between Bryan and I.  I hit three in my last round, and Bryan had the last at bats.  He hit two homers, coming up just short.
The last time we played home run derby last fall I think the score was also 9-8, with me barely edging Nick.

Spring is here.  Baseball is back.

1-23-11 Cooperstown NY

This weekend, I went to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY.
Cooperstown is a little over 7 hours from Pittsburgh, so we drove most of the way on Saturday afternoon and stayed overnight in Binghamton NY.

The next day, we braved the 8 degree weather and snow and made our way to Cooperstown.  There were lots of baseball shops lining Main Street on the way to Cooperstown.  Unfortunately, since it was Sunday, most of them were closed.  The Hall of Fame is open 9AM-5PM daily though.

Here I am outside of the Hall of Fame.  (I know, Where’s my coat?!)
100_6482.JPGFrom Ebbets Field:
100_6816.JPGThere was a large portion on this floor for Hank Aaron
And another section of the third floor was dedicated to Statistics.  It featured all major statistical categories with the all time career record holder and active leaders:
100_6831.JPGHere’s a short video of that section of the Hall.

Also nearby was a display case of a ball from every No-Hitter thrown in the major leagues since 1940. 
100_6840.JPGAnother brief video:

The next exhibit was a display of World Series rings dating back to the early 1900’s.
It was pretty cool.

Here are two short videos of the rings:

Near the exit of the third floor was a large display of baseball cards that included all different kinds of cards from baseball’s history.  There was another Honus Wagner 1909 card in there.
Another brief video:

We finished our trip by heading over to the library on the first floor which we missed the first time through.

Here is a view of the Gallery from the library entrance:
And the courtyard of the hall of fame with some 18 inches of snow or so burying the statues there:
There wasn’t much in this section. 

There was a small area devoted to movies:
that had old baseball movie posters
and displays:
The library section was a ghost town, everything was closed there.  The Giamatti research center, the museum, the bullpen theater.  All of it.

After several hours it was time to go.  We left a bit before 3PM and got back home around 10.
It was well worth the trip.  I wouldn’t buy a membership and go all the time, but it’s a must for any baseball fan that has never been there.  I’d say there’s pretty much something for every hardcore baseball fan there.

Coming up next:  Pirates Winter Caravan and Piratefest entries.