I wanted to attend a game this weekend, and I had to choose between Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington. My #1 choice was Baltimore, but I wasn’t able to secure a season ticket to get in early, so it wasn’t worth going. Cincinnati was having a Johnny Bench ceremony and statue unveiling, and I was worried that batting practice may not occur because of it. So, in consultation with Nick Pelescak, we headed to Washington DC.
Gloomy skies and chilly air greeted Amy, Olivia, Nick and I when we arrived in Washington DC.
To make matters worse, the Washington Nationals didn’t take batting practice, despite having a picnic in the park for season ticket holders. Basically, they opened up the park for season ticket holders early and let them go wherever they wanted, except for the field. You’d think that the season ticket holders would want to enjoy some batting practice. But no. The Nationals suck. I hate Nationals Park, this was my fourth trip there this year, and its going to be the last one for awhile.
Luckily, I found a ball above the bullpens as I made my way over to foul territory.
In foul territory, I picked a spot about 20 rows back in the middle of a sea of empty sections and called out to Henry Rodriguez who threw me a ball.
It was my second of the day, but more importantly, it was my 400th of the season. In 2009, I snagged 412 baseballs. Last year, it was 544. It marks the first time that any ballhawk had snagged at least 400+ baseballs three consecutive years, so it was a special ball.
Anyhow, the Marlins finally began to hit after I had walked around the park looking for Easter Eggs.
I didn’t find any more.
Anyhow, I spent most of batting practice in the center field seats in Center Field. There’s only two small sections out there, but left field was annoyingly crowded.
Every row was pretty much blocked up, leaving no routes to home run balls.
Oh, I forgot to mention Stephen Strasburg was starting for the Nationals, bringing out 33,000+.
In the center field seats, I was decked out in my Gawd-awful Marlins teal, hoping to get a toss up ball.
After getting ignored by Burke Badenhop several times, I snagged a ground rule double for ball #3. The ball was hit by a lefty, perhaps Logan Morrison, and it was juggled by two other fans, before falling into an empty row behind me, where I grabbed it. This was the view of the field from the spot of the snag:
And here’s where I snagged it:
What a bust. Nick and I, who have snagged over 2,600 between the two of us managed only six combined today. Should’ve gone to Baltimore… or Cincinnati.
Goodbye Washington, I hope I don’t see you next year.
Game: 4 balls (1 hit, 2 thrown, 1 found)
Season: 402 balls (173 hit, 86 thrown, 87 device, 56 found)
Games: 74 games
Average: 5.43 per game
Career: 1,524 balls
Sundays usually are rather uneventful. Typically, there isn’t batting practice since its a day game that follows a night game. However, today was another lucky Sunday at PNC Park – both teams would take a full batting practice.
For the first half hour, fans aren’t allowed to enter the seats. For whatever stupid reasoning, season ticket holders are allowed in from Monday-Saturday, but not Sundays. As a result, I stood behind section 141.
And got Ross Ohlendorf to toss me my first ball of the day.
Ohlendorf, a right handed pitcher, was wearing a glove on his right hand and throwing balls into the ball boy left handed. His toss to me was left handed and it just barely cleared the gate. Ross is the friendliest Pirates pitcher when it comes to toss-ups. I really hope he gets his season turned around so he can get some positive momentum going into next year.
Ross tossed up another ball that was right to me, but it hit the gate. An usher walked over and picked up the ball and pocketed it, right in front of six fans who were five feet from the ball.
At 11:30 when the stadium opened, rather than set up shop in left field, I went searching for easter eggs.
I found ball #2 in left field under a bleacher:
Ball #3 along the first base line in the handicapped seats:
And ball #4 a few feet away from my third ball.
I then realized that I was now on 1,499 career baseballs, so I made my way over to the Pirates dugout to try and get a player to toss me #1500. If you read this blog regularly, you may recall my 1,000th ball came last year in Cleveland via the glove trick.
The last Pirates group contained Matt Hague, Gorkys Hernandez, Jason Jaramillo, and Pedro Ciriaco. Once they finished their round, it marked the end of batting practice. On his way into the dugout, I called out to Pedro Ciriaco and asked if he minded tossing me a ball that was directly in his path as he approached. He obliged and flipped me a well worn filthy ball for #1,500.
Here it is:
After batting practice, Amy took this cheesy picture of me and the ball:
Anyhow, moments after I snagged that ball, the Marlins pitchers were finishing up their tosses down the right field line. I threw on my Marlins gear and headed over. It helped that I was *the* only fan there. Not even were any Pirates fans asking for balls. As a result, Clay Hensley threw me ball #6:
and Jose Ceda tossed me ball #7, even though he had seen me get one from Hensley. “You already got one,” he said. “Yes,” I replied, “it’s up to you if you want to give me another one.” Ceda stared at me awkwardly for a moment then threw me the ball.
At 12:00 I headed back to left field and caught a ground rule double off the bat of Jose Lopez here for ball #8.
By the way, there was a special 9-11 logo painted onto the field. Unless you’re under 10 years old, I’m sure we all remember where we were on September 11th 2001. I was a junior in college at Washington & Jefferson and woke up hearing some bewilderment next door. “Those are people jumping from that building!” Someone was yelling. I turned on the TV and watched it all unfold.
Game: 8 balls (1 hit, 4 thrown, 3 found)
Season: 381 balls (159 hit, 83 thrown, 87 device, 52 found)
Games: 71 games
Career: 1,503 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 5 (maybe 6 if I do an away game next weekend)
Needed to reach goal: 32 (6.4 per game)
It was a Saturday, so the gates open an extra half hour early. However, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it, as I didn’t get to snag a ball until 4:50. That was thrown by Alex Presley, pictured at right here:
My second ball of the day was a ground rule double that I snagged here:
A fan in the front row tried to knock it down, but they just slowed it down and it came right to me.
Ball #3 was a glove trick ball that I gave away to another ballhawk who hadn’t gotten one yet.
My fourth ball of the day was a clean catch of an Andrew McCutchen home run ball in section 136. I had to get up on the bleacher to make the catch.
When the Marlins came out, I changed into my Marlins gear and caught a John Buck home run on the fly.
My sixth ball of the day was retrieved using the Cleveland Stick. A ball had landed in the ivy on the ‘S’ in Pirates during the early portion of batting practice. As soon as the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over and knocked it out with the Cleveland stick, and reached in with my hand to pick it up. Pretty simple.
In the mean time, Burke Badenhop spotted me about eight rows back after I had snagged this ball and attempted to toss me a ball, but it ended up short. I could’ve still gotten it, but a younger ballhawk ran by and caught it two rows in front of me. Luckily, Badenhop had another ball in his back pocket that he tossed me for ball #7. This time his throw was right on the money.
My final ball of the day was a towering home run hit by Mike Cameron. I ran to my right, up some steps, and picked the only open row that was available to me and made the clean catch. I had to manuever amongst these stationary fans:
I ended up catching it in the eighth row behind the guy in the gray shirt.
After BP I left, as Amy and Olivia were at home waiting for me.
Game: 8 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 373 balls (158 hit, 79 thrown, 87 device, 49 found)
Games: 70 games
Career: 1,495 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 6
Needed to reach goal: 40 (6.7 per game)
Today was a pretty mediocre day for me snagging wise.
First off, I forgot my sunglasses, making it almost impossible to track home run balls.
Here I am trying to use my glove to block the sun.
I managed to snag a Brandon Wood home run on the fly before the Pirates left the field. I had to make the catch on the run and caught it backhanded and below my waist. I lost track of it for a second, but it was more of a line drive, so it didn’t completely vanish in the glaring sun. Here I am numbering ball #1485:
I changed into my ridiculous eye-catching teal Marlins gear once the Pirates wrapped things up. Look how bad I stand out.
It paid off as I got Alex Sanabia to toss me ball #2. Here I am showing it to Amy:
My third and final ball was an awkward scrum ball. It was a home run that landed and settled on an empty bleacher. Three people grabbed the ball at the same time. I had the ball wedged between my glove and my bare hand, another guy let go of the ball after a second. However, the guy in the row behind me held onto the ball for dear life with one hand. I had a better grip, so after an awkward twenty seconds, he finally let go.
Anyhow, after batting practice, Amy, Olivia and I went up to the upper deck to pick a new season ticket seat for next year. Since the Pirates are raising prices, the only seats available for $499 for a full season plan are in rows S-Y. I wanted to make sure the seats I get have no obstructions.
Here’s Olivia and I in the upper deck.
Game: 3 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 365 balls (154 hit, 77 thrown, 85 device, 49 found)
Games: 69 games
Career: 1,487 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 7
Needed to reach goal: 48 (6.9 per game)
Before heading to PNC Park, I stopped off at a baseball field near my house to take some swings.
Panoramic of the field:
Game: 4 balls ( 3 hit, 1 thrown )
Season: 458 balls (231 hit, 99 thrown, 61 device, 61 found)
Balls in the month of August: 107
Games: 70 games
Average: 6.54 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 1,036 balls
Streak: 166 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I got on the board before the gates opened today.
I was standing on the Riverwalk waiting for a home run to land on the concourse, but left around 4:50 to head back up to the gate. Just as I left, a passerby informed me that I had just missed one. I turned and saw fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak knee deep in the weeds, frantically searching for a ball.
I turned around and jogged back and joined in the search. After a minute, I found the ball in the weeds, for my first ball of the day.
Upon entrance to the left field bleachers, I noticed a ball land near the foul pole, so I ran over and scooped that one up for ball #2.
Game: 7 balls ( 4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 found )
Season: 454 balls (228 hit, 98 thrown, 61 device, 61 found)
Balls in the month of August: 103
Games: 69 games
Average: 6.58 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 1,032 balls
Streak: 165 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Luck wasn’t on my side today. There were at least 8-10 balls that I came up two feet short or less of snagging. Either balls that were just out of my reach, or snatched up at the last second by random fans.
That said, I did find ball #1 laying near the bullpen when I ran in to get on the board early.
I managed to get Sean Gallagher to toss me a ball, but the ball sailed high, and despite my best effort to catch it by hopping up on a bleacher, it tipped off of my glove and landed several rows behind me.
I tried to grab the ball, but this ballhawk raced over and grabbed it a split second before I could, despite the ball clearly being tossed to me.
He also cut my arm with his long fingernails.
Game: 6 balls ( 2 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device, 1 found )
Season: 447 balls (224 hit, 96 thrown, 61 device, 60 found)
Balls in the month of August: 96
Games: 68 games
Average: 6.57 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 1,025 balls
Streak: 164 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Today kicked off a 10 game homestand at PNC Park.
When Nick Pelescak and I ran in at 5 PM, some ushers were coming out of the bleachers and said “There’s a bunch of balls in there.”
I found balls #1 and 2 in the left field bleachers. The first one was in the front row of Section 136 and the other one was about four rows back closer towards the foul pole.
Ball # was hit by Neil Walker. It was a home run that landed in the crosswalk area, bounced off the white facade of the upper bleachers,
and right into my glove in the third row in the lower bleachers. I heard Jeff Karstens murmur, “Got the rebound.”
Ball #4 and 5 were caught in this area, both off the bat of Lastings Milledge.
Game: 10 balls ( 3 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device, 4 found )
Season: 441 balls (224 hit, 96 thrown, 61 device, 60 found)
Balls in the month of August: 90
Games: 67 games
Average: 6.58 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 1,019 balls
Streak: 163 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
When 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.
In the 4th inning, I decided to try for a Marlins warm up ball.
I walked over to this unknown pitcher
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.
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:
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
Today wasn’t looking good. It had rained continuously throughout the day. When my wife and I left for the ballpark at 4:25 PM, it was still pouring. We went anyway.
For the first half hour, nothing was going on in the stadium. The tarp was on the field, and there were no players to be seen. There was a random ball sitting in the middle of center field, but it would’ve been impossible to reach with the glove trick.
At 5:30, the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch and toss. The rain had relented a bit. I went down and lined up behind Jeff Karstens, hoping for an overthrown. It didn’t happen. I did manage to get Craig Hansen’s warm up ball. It was ball #1.
The Pirates left the field, and once again, nothing was happening. We went over to right field to await the Marlins to come out and catch.
The weather still wasn’t looking good. Water was starting to pond on the warning track.
Not too bad, I guess.
Game: 2 balls (2 thrown)
Season : 31 balls (13 hit, 12 thrown, 6 device)
Games: 8 games (6 with BP, 2 without)
Average: 3.88 balls per game
Career: 197 balls