O.A.R. is in town playing a post game concert to coincide with fireworks set off from a barge on the river, the Clemente bridge, atop the scoreboard, and buildings across the river. Tonight was night two of the annual Skyblast Series, a popular Pirates promotion.
This game was the 700th game in the history of PNC Park, the seventh largest crowd in the history of PNC Park, and the largest ever Skyblast crowd. Additionally, it was the largest crowd of the 2009 season.
Luckily, the skies were threatening earlier in the day, keeping some fans away from batting practice. As a result, there were slightly less fans than attended yesterday.
Since it was a Saturday game, the gates opened a half hour earlier than during the week. I was in line by 3:30, and was the first one into the stadium. My plan was to get off to a big start by picking up a bunch of Easter Eggs. Another Saturday special perk is that the entire seating bowl is also open to season ticket holders, rather than just the left field bleachers. (Season Ticket holders are confined to left field only during weekdays).
I ran in and checked to lower bleachers. Nothing.
I hopped up the steps and checked the upper general admission bleachers. Nothing.
I ran over into foul territory and checked all of the upper and lower sections along the left field line. Nothing.
The only thing I did find was an old usher with a devilish wry smile on his face as I walked back up the stairs empty handed to return to left field. I had a feeling he had pocketed several balls, as I’ve personally seen him do so at previous games.
I was shut out for the first twenty minutes of batting practice. My plan to get on the board was to ask new Pirate Jose Ascanio for a ball in Spanish.
I moved down to the front row, waiting for Ascanio to snag a ball.
Soon, Andy LaRoche hit a line drive that carried fairly deep into the outfield. It hit on the grass and took a medium sized hop towards the wall, right where I was standing. I reacted and reached down over the wall and snagged ball #1. Unfortunately, Ascanio was about ten feet away watching. Now, I couldn’t ask him for a ball today, as he had just seen me snag one. I’ll have to save that request for another day.
I didn’t get another ball until near the very end of the Pirates batting practice. Many of the Pirates righties must’ve been watching the Cardinals take batting practice yesterday, because they took the exact same approach – trying to inside out every pitch to right field.
Luckily, Steve Pearce hit a towering home run towards me. I had to hobble over one section and just managed to snag the ball at the last second. After catching ball #2, I stumbled a bit and regained my balance by grabbing onto the bleacher back support. (My range is improving a bit. My back, which has ailed me for the last nine days, has felt markedly better since I started using a hydrocolater pad yesterday. I even went without my back brace today.)
Game: 5 balls (3 hit, 2 device)
Season: 260 balls (134 hit, 84 thrown, 42 device)
Games: 55 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.73 balls per game
Career: 426 balls
Streak: 70 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Today was the first of three Skyblast dates throughout the summer at PNC Park. Basically its an hour long concert/fireworks show. The bands are always “B” List bands, with past bands being Smash Mouth, Styx, Live, PovertyNeck Hill Billies, etc. The band tonight was the Zac Brown Band.
The stadium was sold out, so there would be some more competition than usual during batting practice. I attended this game with my wife. We were the 4th and 5th people in line. Unfortunately, by the time the gates opened, the 3 people ahead of us had swelled to 11 through the process of sparing/cutting. There went any chance for Easter Eggs out the window.
After about 5 minutes of batting practice, I got ball #1 from Ian Snell.
Ian gets a lot of crap for his inconsistencies, but he’s one of my favorite Pirates. He’s definitely not stingy when it comes to giving away baseballs, so you have to respect that.
One of the groups that came up was mostly lefties, so I abandoned left field and went into foul ball territory.
Game: 5 Balls (3 hit, 2 thrown)
Season: 135 Balls (60 hit, 58 thrown, 17 device)
Games: 27 Games (23 with BP, 4 without)
Average: 5.00 Balls Per Game
Career: 301 Balls
Attendance: 37,167 (sell-out)