Tagged: Erik Jabs

4-24-09 Progressive Field

I kicked off this weekend with the last of my April games.  I had wanted to snag 60 balls this month, but in retrospect, that’s probably unreachable.

I went to Cleveland with one goal:  snag a Minnesota Twins’ HHH Metrodome final season ball.  It was the first time I’d been back to Cleveland since August 2008.

I got the stadium, almost an hour early, so I took some pictures.
100_0934.jpgA closer look at one of the commemoratives:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  6 Balls (2 hit, 4 thrown)
Season:  48 Balls (17 hit, 25 thrown, 6 device)
Games:  10 Games (8 with BP, 2 without)
Average:  4.80 Balls per Game
Career:  214 Balls
Attendance: 20,215

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4-21-09 PNC Park

I had several things working in my favor today. 

1)  The Penguins had a playoff game at the same time the Pirates had their game today.  This would lead to drastically reduced attendance figures.
2)  The weather forecast was menacing.  With dark clouds and some rain showers moving through around 4 PM.  Rain tends to keep folks at home also.
3)  It was a weekday game.  The Pirates do not draw on well on weekday night games.
4)  There was only one other decent ballhawk in attendance.
5)  I had plenty of space in my backpack.

I got to the stadium around 4:15PM and was second in line.  When the gates opened, I was the second into the bleachers.  I went over to my spot in left center field and hoped for a home run to come.  A Pirates batter drove a ball to left center field.  There were maybe four people there for the first ten minutes, so I ranged far to my left towards the bullpen.  The ball skipped off the bullpen wall.  Oh well.  I walked back and looked down.  I saw a speck of white under a bleacher.  A ball was lying tucked up against the concrete step and a bleacher support.  It was well hidden, but not anymore.  I reached down and picked up ball #1.

Craig Monroe was the next batter.  He hit a drive to deep left center.  The ball hit off a bleacher and bounced back onto the field.  Matt Capps walked over and picked it up.  I called out for the ball and Capps flipped it to me.  I had ball #2, and #199 of my career.

The Pirates ended their BP at 5:10.  I had two balls after 10 minutes.  Not bad.  The Marlins came out to take Batting Practice.  I changed into the Marlins gear that I wore yesterday.    Coach Bo Porter came out with a bat and started hitting line drives off the wall so Brett Carroll could get a read on how to play the richochets.    Bo’s second hit was a hard line drive that cleared the wall.  It literally almost took out two ushers who were standing in the aisle cleaning the water off the seats.  I didn’t get that ball, but moved over to the spot that Bo was hitting the ball so I could snag one if he hit it over the wall again.  Porter started hitting hard grounders at the wall, wary of what he had just done minutes early.  After Porter and Carroll were done playing balls off the wall, I asked Brett Carroll for the ball.  He briefly glanced at me and saw my Marlins gear and tossed me ball #3, and #200 of my ballhawking career.

The first group of Marlins weren’t hitting many home runs, so I tried to get some more baseballs from the pitchers.  I received ball #4 from an unidentified Marlin.
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Can anyone help me out?  I got his attention and asked for the ball.  He looked at me and waved.  I asked him one more time for the ball in case he didn’t hear the first time.  He then flipped the ball up to me.

Another ball rolled to the wall and Renyel Pinto walked over to pick it up.
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I made my way over to the bullpen area.  There was a ball laying in the Pirates bullpen.  It was directly below me, about 5 feet out from the wall.  The ball was laying in a groove of dirt between the grass and a green carpet walkway.  It was in an indention of about maybe an inch or less.  I wanted to try the glove trick but I didn’t want to struggle with it.  It would’ve been hard to bat the ball closer to the wall with the glov
e to begin with because of the groove it was in.  Also, the main security office is directly behind the bullpen with large windows.  I felt I was being watched.  I didn’t want to risk it so I waited for someone to come out to the bullpen.  I waited for about 20 minutes until finally Jason Jaramillo and Joe Kerrigan came out to remove the bullpen tarp and get ready for Jeff Karsten’s warm up.  I asked Jaramillo first for the ball, but was ignored.  I then asked Joe Kerrigan and he picked the ball up, looked up to see who asked, and flipped me the ball.  It was ball #8 on the day, and a new personal one day record for me.

I decided to try for double digits, and stadium domination.  I asked John Baker for his warm up ball in center field before the game, but I don’t think he heard me.

The game then began.  I stood in center field for most of the game.  My plan was to try and get the outfielders’ warm up balls.

This was my view.  (picture was taken in about the 4th inning – notice the empty seats!)
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Before the first inning began, I found a fairly empty section in center field and stood with my glove ready, awaiting Nate McLouth’s warm up ball.
100_0916.jpgWhen he was done tossing with Brandon Moss, Nate turned and threw me his warm up ball.  It was ball #9.

I continued to roam the outfield in hopes of catching a home run ball or another warm up ball.  I snapped a few more pictures of random things, like Pittsburgh at night.
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In the 4th inning, I decided to try for a Marlins warm up ball.

I walked over to this unknown pitcher
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and asked for a warm up ball when he was done throwing.  He looked at me, saw my Marlins T-shirt and threw me ball #10.  Reynel Pinto whistled at me and called me over to the bullpen. I thought he was going to scold me because I heard him telling someone earlier in batting practice, “You already got one!”  I walked over and talked to him through the chain link fence.

“Aren’t you cold man?”  He said.  I told him I was, but I’d be alright.  I wanted to show my Marlins shirt off.  “You’re crazy man, this weather is terrible.”  I thought about asking him for a Marlins bullpen jacket, but that would’ve been a ridiculous request.

I was now 1 ball away from the PNC Park record for most balls in one game (as known to me).  A ballhawk with initials MG got 11 balls on 9/20/08 last year, the last batting practice of the regular season.  I would’ve liked to tie or beat him, as I was getting dissed earlier in the day by the same ballhawk.

I went over to the right field wall in the 6th inning.
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It was Brandon Moss’ turn to throw.  He threw the ball to the cluster of fans seated to the left of the foul pole, near the top of the section.  None of them had a glove.  I was standing half way up in the second section to the left of the foul ball.  The ball hit off someone’s hands, and bounced two rows down and rolled right to my feet.  I picked it up for ball #11.

I didn’t get any more warm up balls, so come the 9th inning, I was forced to decide to go to the Marlins dugout, or the Pirates dugout.  I decided to try my luck at the Marlins dugout, since I had been shutout every single game this homestand at the Pirates’ one.  No luck.  The Marlins weren’t in the mood to toss anything up after losing their second consecutive game to the Pirates.

No matter.  I had set a new personal record for balls in one day, and bounced back from my 2 ball performance yesterday in a big way.

Some pictures of the balls:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  11 balls  (2 hit, 9 thrown)
Season:  42 balls (15 hit, 21 thrown, 6 device)
Games:   9 games (7 with BP, 2 without)
Average:    4.67 balls per game
Career:  208 balls
Attendance:  9,917

4-15-09 PNC Park

I was faced with the decision today of attending the Pirate game or skipping it.  This is the weather forecast as of 1PM. 

weather.jpgBatting practice would surely be canceled.  I may get shut out for the first time since Sunday August 31st, 2008.  I decided that since I am now in a competitive ballhawk league, that I had to go and at least try.  I knew that my average balls per game would probably take a hit.

I went with my wife Holly and we arrived at the gates around 4:40 PM.  The gates open during the week at 5 PM.  Walking past the Stargell statue, I peered into the park and saw that sure enough, the tarp was covering the field.  There was no batting practice today.

I entered the bleacher section at 5 PM and looked around for some Easter Eggs.  There was nothing to be found, since it had been raining and drizzling all day long.  Around 5:20, the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch.  I followed a group of 6 other ballhawks up the escalator to go into the seating bowl to possibly catch an overthrow.  Usually there are security guards that don’t permit entrance until 5:30, but there were none around.  When we got to the front row right behind Matt Capps, Tyler Yates and company, a field security guard walked over and told us to go back to left field.  Even though it was 5:24, he wouldn’t let us stay.

Meanwhile, the Astros pitchers came out to stretch.  I decided that I might have a better chance getting a ball from them since there was a couple little kids and four high school kids watching the Pirates pitchers.

I decided to take the chance.  I took off my Pirates sweatshirt exposing my black Astros shirt and donned my Houston hat and headed over to right field.

I lined myself up behind Russ Ortiz and Geoff Geary.  I was the only one in the stands behind the Astros pitchers.  I had 20 feet to my left and right without a soul in sight.    There were 4 balls in play, as 8 pitchers were throwing.   Jeff Fulchino finished his tosses and had a ball.  I asked him for the ball and he made eye contact with me.  He didn’t say anything, but went and talked to a fellow pitcher.   A couple minutes later, Fulchino tossed me ball #1

There were still 3 balls in play.  Wesley Wright finished his tosses and gave his ball to a fan a little further down the line.  It was a 10 year old kid wearing Pirate gear.  Tim Byrdak was joking around and told the kid that he wasn’t done with the ball yet and to toss it back.  The kid just stared at Byrdak confused and horrified.  Byrdak urged him to toss the ball back.  The kid then turned and ran away.  It was rather amusing.

Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins finished their tossing next.  I asked for the ball.  Again, I was the only fan with Astros gear on, so Valverde looked at me and tossed me ball #2.  There was one ball left and it was being used by Geoff Geary and Russ Ortiz.  I snapped a picture on my cell phone.
0415091753.jpgThe Pirates got some good relief work from their bullpen and ended up losing the game 4-1.  Adam LaRoche accounted for the Pirates only run with a Home Run in the 9th inning.  It was too little too late. 

I tried to get a ball at the dugout after the game from an umpire and the Pirates pitchers, but failed to do so. 

As I was ready to leave, I decided to walk around for a minute and collect a ticket stub or two.  I notice in Section 124, about four rows back, a circular white object laying on the ground.  Seriously?  Could this be a ball?  Since I waited for the bullpen coach to come in, it took some time and the stadium was basically vacant.  I looked closer and sure enough, it was a major league baseball.  How did this get here?  Was it some little kid who didn’t really even care about it?  Did someone catch it and it trickled out of their glove during the game?  It was weird.  I looked around and didn’t see anyone looking for a ball.  There were only a half dozen fans left, waiting down at the dugout.  So, I picked the ball up, making it ball #4 of the day.    Usually, Easter Eggs that are found count as hit balls, but since there was no batting practice on this day, and it didn’t look like a game ball, I decided it was probably someone’s warm up ball.  I’ll chalk it up under the thrown category.

I’m glad I went to the game despite the rain. 

Here’s a look at today’s results: ( the media guide was free for being a season ticket holder.  The bobblehead was won at a spin-a-wheel g
ame where they are giving away all of the left over promotions from 2008)
100_0757.jpgAnd a closer look at those Astros balls.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  4 Balls (4 thrown)
Season: 17 Balls (7 hit, 8 thrown, 2 device)
Games:  4 Games (3 with BP, 1 without)
Average:  4.25 Balls per Game
Career:  183 Balls
Hit List:  183 ties me with former Pirate Chris Duffy for #3769  on the all time hit list.
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4-13-09 PNC Park : Home Opener

100_0696.jpgToday was PNC Park’s Opening Day.  I went today with my wife Holly.  We got to the gates around 10:30 AM, and waited in line for a half hour.  When the gates opened, I rushed in and was the 6th one into the left field bleachers.

Things were a little dry at first.  Eventually, two balls were hit and Ian Snell came to the fence to get them.  I asked him for a ball and he flipped one over his head without looking to me.  It was ball #1 of the day.  Luckily, for the first 30 minutes, only season ticket holders are permitted into batting practice, so I had plenty of room to roam.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  5 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 13 balls (7 hit, 4 thrown, 2 device)
Games: 3   (3 with BP, 0 without)
Average:   4.33
Career:  179 balls
Hit List:  179 ties me with Willy Aybar for #3809 all time.
Attendance: 38,411.
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4-12-09 Great American Ball Park

Happy Easter everyone! 

My friend Joe and I went to Great American Ball Park today. 
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It was an afternoon game, so I was worried that batting practice would be canceled.  We waited in line for about 10 minutes to get in.  At 11:40, when the gates opened, I rushed to left field.  The Pirates were taking batting practice!

I was the first one there, but the stadium ushers must have picked up all of the Easter Eggs, because there were none to be found.  Yesterday’s starter Paul Maholm was alone in left field.  I shouted to him to congratulate him on his great start yesterday.  I then asked for a ball.  He looked up and threw me a ball.  His aim was off and it was wide and to my left.  It tipped off my glove and landed a row behind me.  Luckily, there was still no one around, so I turned around and picked it up.  It was ball #1.  I asked Matt Capps, John Grabow, and Tyler Yates for balls in left center field, but was ignored.  I didn’t feel like pestering them, so I found an open aisle about 6 rows back that wasn’t being blocked by those long railings I mentioned in Friday’s entry.

Freddy Sanchez soon launched a deep fly ball to left.  It was right at me, in the center of the section.  However, it was sailing over my head.  I hate it when this happens.  I don’t have latitudinal range, and get stuck.  It happens often at PNC Park.  The ball landed about 5 rows back, so I had to climb over the chairs to beat some Reds fan there by a split second.  It was ball #2.

Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss’ group was coming up next, so we moved over to right field. 
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STATISTICS:
Game: 5 balls  (3 hit, 2 thrown)
Season:  8 balls  (5 hit, 3 thrown)
Average:  4.0 balls/game (8 balls/2 games)
Career: 174 balls

Hit List:  174 hits ties Ozzie Virgil for #3855 all time.
Attendance: 12,876 (30.6% full)
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4-11-09 Great American Ball Park

I attended today’s game with my best friend from my childhood days, Joe Filipowski.  We got to the gates about 10 minutes before they were to open.  I hate how the gates don’t open until 90 minutes before the first pitch.  At 11:40, we were finally let inside.  The Pirates were already in mid batting practice. 

I checked for Easter eggs in left field, but there was nothing there.  With some of the Pirates better hitters coming up and being left handed, we headed over to right field.  I was shocked at how amazingly rude the Pirates were towards their own fans.  I got totally ignored by Zach Duke, Jesse Chavez, Craig Monroe, Eric Hinske, Brandon Moss, and Donnie Veal in right field.  I asked each of them for a ball on more than one occasion, but was ignored.  The irritating part was that they were giving balls to little kids with Reds gear on, even though I was completely decked out in Pirates gear, including their new alternate batting practice jersey.  It looked like it was going to be one of those days.

I decided to try and get a batted ball from one of the left handed power hitters.  Nate McLouth hit one, but it was over my head and some guy just barely beat me to it.  My friend Joe got the first ball of the day, but gave it away to a little kid.  Jesse Chavez pointed the kid out and tossed it to him several rows up, but the kid missed it.  Joe ended up catching up, but out of kindness gave it to the kid.  He later said he regretted giving it away, it being the first ball that he’d snagged since the 1994 Home Run Derby at Three Rivers Stadium.

Moments later, Brandon Moss launched a deep fly ball to right field.  I drifted over about 5 seats and camped out underneath it.  The ball landed squarely in my glove.  It was ball #1 of the day for me, and my first ball of 2009.  It’d been over 6 months since I last snagged a ball, so it was good to finally get one.  If you can find the #1 below, that’s the exact spot I snagged Moss’ Home Run.
41109 RF.jpgI didn’t take any pictures during batting practice because I felt like having my camera around my neck would be a distraction for me and make moving around a little tougher.  After Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss’s group hit, I decided to move to left field.   It would prove to be a little late because Andy LaRoche was absolutely raking balls into left field while we were in right.

I made my way over to where Matt Capps, Tyler Yates, and John Grabow were standing in left center field.  I asked several times for some balls, but was ignored by Yates.  At least Grabow looked at me, but decided to throw the ball into the bleachers instead.  I made eye contact with Capps.  He got a ball and pointed at me and tossed it.  Out of no where, a Reds fan dives in front of me and steals the ball before it reached me.  (I was in the second row, he was in the first).  Luckily, another ball was hit to Capps.  He turned around and made sure I caught this one, arching it perfectly.  It was ball #2 of the day.  

I then decided to move to the left field line where Ian Snell and Craig Hansen were hanging out.  Since catching a HR ball would prove tricky here, I decided to try and ask every Pirate I could for a ball.  I settled into the second row in one of the sections near the line.  I chose an empty row so I could somewhat move.  Moments later, Craig Monroe lauched a line drive in my direction.  I barely had to move.  There was some competition for the ball from some people in the front row, but since I am 6’5″, I was able to outreach them and made the snag for ball #3 on the day.    The below picture shows the exact locations of balls #2 and #3:
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3-28-09 McKechnie Field, Bradenton FL

My dad and I left our hotel at 9:50 this morning to see the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton FL.  The plan was to get there early and attempt to snag some home run balls in batting practice.  Even though McKechnie Field doesn’t have an outfield seating area, there’s a narrow walkway behind the left field fence.  I was planning on standing on this sidewalk and chasing down any home runs that came may way. 

If you notice in the picture below, the wind was blowing straight out to left between 30-50mph.  Little particles kept flying in my eyes and I was kicking myself for not bringing my sunglasses.
100_0281.jpgI soon abandoned my plan to roam the walkway pictured above.  It was too narrow, and I had absolutely no chance of seeing home run balls coming.    I moved a bit more toward left center where there was a parking lot for an adjacent school.  Competition was slim, as you can see in the picture below.  My dad went back to the left field foul pole to watch some batting practice.  I heard him yell, “ERIK!”  Then I heard some crackling branches above my head.  Ball #1 dropped out of the trees and I quickly pounced on it.  Another minute later my dad yelled my name again, and another ball crashed through the trees and I fielded it was it bounced off a root.  It was Ball #2.
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Although I got the first two balls to come out this way, I wasn’t happy that I didn’t see either of them coming.  I couldn’t pick the ball up by standing where I was.  Before, I was standing too close to the fence.  I had no contrast to pick the ball up except the light blue high.  I moved farther back.

My dad came back from the foul pole and decided to patrol the area near the school beneath the trees.
100_0284.jpgThis was my spot for much of BP.  If you’re wondering why I’m wearing a Phillies hat, its because the only Pirate hat I brought was the one Ian Snell threw me on 9-21-08, and I didn’t want to get that one sweaty.

Soon, another Home Run Ball came out.  I had crept in a bit, and that proved to be a mistake.  The ball hit about 10 feet in front of me and took a huge hop over my head.  My dad was in position to make the snag, but the second bounce went over his head too and hit off of the white shed in the picture below.  I ran the ball down, it was ball #3
100_0286.jpgBesides the guy in the Phillies jersey a couple pictures up, there were a few entrepreneurial ballhawks in attendance today.  They were rough looking locals who caught balls and sold them on the street for $4 or $5.  Whenever these guys got a ball, they would take out a brush and doctor the balls up.  I was told later by some guy that they bleached the balls to make them look brand new.  They also dominated balls that landed within the fence which you can see in the first picture.  They had 6 foot sticks that they would inch the balls closer to the fence, and then squeeze the ball under the fence.  I could’ve had maybe 2 more balls today if I had a way to get these balls.  There were 3 of these guys and a little kid.  They didn’t hang around for long though.   I continued to wait patiently for my next opportunity.
100_0287.jpgI got Ball #4 a bit later.  It was a home run ball that hit off a palm tree and had lost most of its momentum.  It started rolling towards me in the parking lot with one of the hustler ballhawk bleachers in pursuit.  I charged the ball like an infielder charges a slow roller and got to it just in time. 

Another ball came out soon after that my Dad chased down for his first career batting practice home run ball.  He is hoping to get another one tomorrow for one of his nephews.

Batting practice then ended.  I had got 4 balls, but I wasn’t done yet.  Next to where I had been standing was a school.  The school was directly behind the left field wall.  The roof of the school was completely flat, meaning balls that were hit on the school stayed on the school.  Before leaving, I had looked around for any “Easter Eggs.”  There was one behind the batter’s eye in Center Field, but it was a good 15 feet beyond the fence.  Impossible to get.  I walked over to right center field.  There were a good 7 balls laying on the Pirates infield practice field.  No one was around at all, but the gates were locked.  I waited for a bit and then got an 8 foot long 2×4 off of a scrap heap.

Earlier in batting practice, a ball had landed on the aforementioned school.  I thought I may have a chance of reaching it.
100_0288.jpgLook closely, can you see the ball?

I tried to reach it with the 2×4 board, but couldn’t because the roof was too high and I couldn’t get enough leverage.  I needed to be able to stand on something and I would be able to get it.

My dad had the idea of moving over a wooden picnic table for me to stand on.
100_0289.jpgI couldn’t see the ball, so with my dad telling me “left, right” etc, I was able to get ball #5.
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I was pleased with 5 balls
for my first time snagging in Bradenton.  It was a completely different experience than what I am used to.  Not being able to see the ball until it was landing made it fun to chase the balls down.  It also gave those with some agility an advantage.  There was also a lot of luck involved.  There was some 80 year old guy walking in from the parking lot who got a home run ball that clanked off a branch, took a soft bounce on the concrete and right into his hand.

The Bradenton ballhawk experience is much like the Chicago Cubs’ Waveland Avenue experience.  You really can’t see the ball until the last second, and then you have to scramble to chase it down.  It was fun.

On to the game:
100_0291.jpgThe Pirates gave most of their regulars the day off.  The only regular today was Adam LaRoche.  Many regulars were given off due to the night game yesterday.  I was a little disappointed.  At least the Phillies brought all of their stars.    Ian Snell was on the mound for the Pirates.  The Pirates ended up winning the game 10-4, fueled by Andrew McCutchen’s 5 for 5 day.  There were some towering home runs in the game, including a Ryan Howard shot that cleared the batter’s eye.

I’ll close this entry with some action shots from today’s game:
Shane Victorino:
100_0295.jpgRyan Howard:
100_0303.jpgAndrew McCutchen:
100_0336.jpgBrian Bixler:
100_0308.jpgAdam LaRoche:
100_0316.jpgJamie Moyer vs Craig Monroe:
100_0344.jpgAndrew McCutchen close up:
100_0354.jpgTomorrow I will head to Tampa FL to see the Pirates take on the New York Yankees at George Steinbrenner Field.