Since Amy and I had been in Baltimore the past two days, we decided to attend the Pirates vs Nationals game in Washington DC on our travel day back to Pittsburgh.
We began the day on the pier in Annapolis, where our hotel was located,
and ate lunch at Jimmy John’s, a sandwich shop. I got a turkey sandwich and was grossed out by the weird alfalfa greens that they put on it. I’d never had them, and didn’t want to try them. Gross.
We then went to Washington and Nationals Park.
At the gate, we were first in line, and we ran into Zack Hample, who had made the trip from New York City.
Zack is on a quest to snag 1,000 baseballs in 2011 – and he credited me breaking his record last year (with 544) as a motivational factor in his endeavor.
Upon entering the park, there were no balls to be found as batting practice hadn’t yet begun. I decided to run over to right field,
but found out that it is now closed off until 5:30, thereby negating an hour of batting practice time there.
I went back to left, and noticed a ball in the bullpen, which I attempted to glove trick, but failed three times as I was reeling it in. Jordan Zimmerman and Colin Balester watched in amusement. Zimmerman threw a ball at my glove at one point to mess with me, which actually ended up in a perfect glove trick spot directly below me and to my right.
After failing and having the ball drop and roll away, Zimmerman threw me a ball for my effort.
After that, I had some bad luck, including one clunk off of my glove, as I unnecessarily jumped to catch it. (I was terrified it was going to hit Amy, who was two rows behind me.) Trying to change my luck, even though the Nationals were still batting, I changed into my Pirates gear.
I also met a ballhawk named Alex from New Jersey from mygameballs
and chatted with Zack for a minute or two when there was some down time.
A bit later, I recovered after a few more close calls with this clean catch.
5:30 rolled around, so I ran over to right field. I ran down to the front row and found Ball #4 in the front row.
I also noticed a ball in the gap in right field, so I glove tricked it, this time quickly and successfully for ball #5. I then proceeded to get yelled at by an usher named Beni or Benji or something like that. The same usher later demanded Alex to give away his baseballs because he was getting too many, and actually wasted about three minutes of my time questioning me where he, and that he owed him baseballs. Pretty ridiculous. Especially because I personally watched him pick up at least three around 5:25 before I went over to right field.
I stayed in right field for the rest of BP.
After batting practice, we left and actually got back home just as the game was ending.
Game: 6 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season: 270 balls (113 hit, 56 thrown, 63 device, 29 found)
Games: 46 games
Average: 5.87 balls per game
Career: 1,392 balls (I numbered all the balls wrong yesterday, so the first ball was 1382, which is the one I skipped.)
Amy and I checked out of the hotel around 11:30, and met up with Nick, who had gone out for breakfast. We had five hours to kill before the gates of Progressive Field would open at 4:30, so we walked around Cleveland.
I originally wanted to find a park so I could sit down and read the paper and get out of the sun for a bit. So, we began walking toward Settler’s Landing Park, which I saw on a map on my Iphone. It looked like it was on a little river, which turned out to be a canal. I thought there would be some trees, picnic tables and benches.
I was wrong. We were greeted by a hulking, rusting bridge that looked like it had been swept up by a tornado and driven into the ground vertically. It was such an eyesore.
I guess decades ago it was a drawbridge from a rail line which obviously no longer exists.
We walked around the park, and found nothing but homeless people, and giant sized mushrooms.
After a couple photos of the underside of Cleveland,
we headed toward lake Erie, and walked around the Cleveland Browns Football stadium.
Nick then headed to get lunch and to the ballpark, while Amy and I explored the perimeter of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,
and visited the Cleveland Science Center, where we grabbed a bite to eat at a Pizza Hut express, and brushed up on our periodic table of elements. Can you name all of them in the photo?
When it came time to enter the stadium, things got off to a tough start. I only got one ball from the Indians. Chris Perez threw a ball toward a couple of fans in the front row, but they interfered with each other and both missed it. You’ll see me standing there, several rows back.
The ball bounced on the concrete and ended up maybe ten rows back, where I grabbed it to get on the board:
The Indians finished hitting at 5:05. When the Pirates came out, the bad luck continued, and I still only had one baseball when 5:30 rolled around and I headed to left field:
Over in left field, my luck changed as Dusty Brown tossed me ball #2 of the day.
I was hoping that my Pirates gear would make me stand out over the other fans.
I headed back over to center field for the Pirates second group, which featured several lefties.
While there, I caught a Lyle Overbay home run on the fly. It was a full extension leaping catch in this area.
The next batter, Garrett Jones, hit a home run that I caught the next section over, also on the fly for ball #4.
I headed back over to left field for the final group, where Jose Tabata tossed me my fifth ball of the day. He’s on the right, talking with Jose Veras:
I finished batting practice in left field, and ended up with five baseballs on the day.
After batting practice Amy and I spun the Prize Wheel. She won a Duncan Donuts buy one get one free iced coffee coupon, and I won a free drink from Circle K stores. Both garbage prizes. Blah.
After that, we got ice cream cones as we made our way to our seats in the upper deck.
It was a losing battle against the ice cream, which melted faster than we could eat it. Amy’s hands were a mess.
After running to the bathroom to get wet paper towels for us to clean up, it was time for the first pitch.
Our seats were in Section 556, Row X, which was the very last row in the upper deck, and they were great. There was a strong breeze the entire time we were there, and it really kept us cool.
I wish we could’ve stayed for the entire game, but we had to leave around 7:40 to walk back to the bus stop to catch our bus headed back to Pittsburgh.
Game: 5 balls (2 hit, 3 thrown)
Season: 232 balls (89 hit, 52 thrown, 56 device, 226 found)
Games: 38 games
Average: 6.11 balls per game
Career: 1,354 balls
After a poor performance on Sunday, I was hoping for some luck. It wouldn’t happen, at least not on the Riverwalk.
A ball flew out of the stadium about 100 feet to my left and landed in the river. The ball was very reachable with my water device, but the device failed. It never was able to scoop up the ball, and after a minute or two, the ball sank.
To make matters worse, as I was attempting to snag that ball from the river, a ball bounced out of the stadium right where I had been previously standing. It would’ve been an easy snag. That one ended up in the river, and sank to its final resting place in the depths of the murky Allegheny as well.
When the gates opened, I snagged ball #1 off the bat of Andrew McCutchen. It was a home run that landed in the front row near the bullpen. I ran over and picked it up, as the other ballhawks were searching for balls down by the left field foul pole. McCutchen was in the last Pirates group because he was given the day off from starting today, despite having an 11 game hitting streak, and being 6 for 12 lifetime against Mets starter Mike Pelfrey. Cutch would later enter the game late and single to extend his streak to twelve games.
A few minutes later, McCutchen hit an absolute blast more than half way up into the second deck of bleachers. I ran up and found it after a brief search for ball #2.
Ball #3 was glove tricked at the base of the wall in left field when the Mets were hitting, as the Pirates ran off the field at 5:05 again. Lame.
My fourth ball was tossed by Jason Pridie. I had asked him for a ball a few times earlier, and this time he tossed it high above the other fans right to me four rows back.
Ball #5 was glove tricked over by the bullpen.
My sixth ball was a home run hit by an unidentified Met. It landed in a small crowd of people and shot straight up in the air. I hopped up and snagged it.
Less than a minute later, I snagged ball #7 on the fly, on the run in section 134. It brought a few grumbles from the crowd, as the average fan doesn’t like seeing someone get more than one ball, especially in such a short span of time.
A minute after that, I snagged ball #8, which landed on the cross aisle in left field, bounced off the upper bleachers, and rolled to the railing separating the wheel chair section from the aisle, where I had been blocked off from getting up onto the cross aisle. I reached down and grabbed the ball.
Another ball was left unattended by the bullpen, so I went over and glove tricked that one for ball #9.
I then made my way over to right field and was able to snag a Daniel Murphy home run ball that landed in section 140. It hit near the top of section 140, and I snagged it as it trickled down a few rows right to me.
That was ball #10, making today a total success.
I would snag another ball, #11 of the day behind section 141. I caught it on the fly between the wall and the seats that you see here:
I had to jump for the ball, as the ball carried on me a little, and I was boxed in by the seats from behind.
Ball #12 came during the game and was thrown to me by Garrett Jones in the 5th inning. I picked a nice open space on the Clemente wall and got him to toss me his between inning warm up ball.
That would be the last ball I snagged today, as I spent the seventh inning with Amy on her break. She bought me this with her Pirates Bucks ($5 Gift Certificates that workers get every game):
It’s a therma base pullover – like what the players wear during BP when its chilly. I am lucky to have such a wonderful fiancee.
Game: 12 balls (7 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device)
Season: 218 balls (87 hit, 49 thrown, 56 device, 226 found)
Games: 36 games
Average: 6.06 balls per game
Career: 1,340 balls
Today’s game began at 1:10 PM, meaning the gates would open at 11:40 pm. However, I was hoping to get in early at Friday’s, so we arrived at the stadium around 10:30 AM.
It proved to be a mistake, because the Friday’s early entrance doesn’t open until 11AM. Amy and I were forced to stand in 40 degree temps with wind gusts of up to 50 mph for a half hour. It was brutal cold. Brutal.
We were chased from the concourse by a cranky security supervisor who made us go to Friday’s, but failed to say anything to the other couples who were loitering around.
Doumit’s first throw was well short, and fell into the bullpen. He tried again, but over shot me by 10 feet, and the ball hit a bleacher and bounced back onto the field. His third try was right on the money though. I definitely appreciated Doumit’s patience and willingness to make sure he hooked me up.
The Pirates were hitting some home runs, but not very many into the seating areas.
Everyone was tailgating and blocking the aisles, and all of the exits were roped off. The only way off was the one entryway where cars were streaming in. Eventually we were let out. We didn’t get home until 11:58 PM, as it was a ten hour drive back. Amy helped make the drive back fun though, and it went fast.
Game: 3 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device,)
Season: 140 balls (56 hit, 35 thrown, 28 device, 20 found)
Games: 22 games
Average: 6.36 balls per game
Career: 1,262 balls
*Last year on May 15th I had snagged 115 baseballs through 16 games, so I am a bit ahead of last year’s record year, despite the poor weather we’ve had.
My day got off to a great start before the gates even opened. I spent 4:15-4:50 on the Riverwalk outside of the stadium. I did the same thing yesterday, but not even one ball came out.
Today, that would be different. I misplayed one ball that rather than knocking down with my body, I let hit the concrete to play it on a bounce. The ball took a gigantic hop and went right into the river.
The second ball I had a chance on, I made sure to knock the ball down with my body. It was another home run that ripped through a tree, hit me, and settled in the grass, where I smothered it. It was my first ball of the day. It all happened here.
A few minutes later, I cleanly snagged another home run ball on the fly as it one-bounced out of the stadium here:
When the gates opened, Ross Ohlendorf tossed me ball #3. Ross is probably the best BP shagger in the National League. He really hustles after everything.
My fourth and final ball of the Pirates BP was hit into the upper bleachers. I raced up and claimed it about six rows back.
When the Dodgers came out to hit, I was able to glove trick ball #5 here:
Then snagged a ground rule double here,
and was tipped off by the guy in the picture below about another glove trick opportunity, which I reeled in for ball #7.
I went over to right field at 5:30 to look for balls, but there were none. I looked down at section 139, and there was a ball literally at another ballhawk’s feet that he didn’t see. From the front row of the right field wall, it was unmistakeably white and round – an easter egg. I ran down and picked it up for ball #8. It was laying in a little bit of water here:
but it wasn’t completely soaked.
I stayed in center field as Andre Ethier was hitting. I was robbed twice, but managed to get my glove on one of his home runs that I momentarily dropped, but recovered to pick it up here:
I had to reach down and try and make a basket catch, and it hit the bulge of string that I keep in my glove and popped out. Luckily, no one else was in the area though to grab the misplayed ball.
I only needed one more ball for double digits. I still had twenty minutes of batting practice to get it, and Jay Gibbons, the Dodgers best BP hitter was up. I moved up to the steep Clemente wall, where Gibbons had routinely peppered hoome runs the past two days. He hit a home run to my right so I took off to make the catch. However, the right field wall has cupholders that are low to the ground.
I stumbled on one and went straight down, tumbling down into the row below.
I tried to use the seat below to break my fall, but my left arm basically went right through the folded up chair. I bashed the side of my lower left leg, hit the outer portion of my left bicep, and left thigh on the seats and arm rests. It hurt bad, but I popped right up as the ball was about ten feet away in the row I’d fallen into. However, some random guy hastily climbed over three rows and snatched it from me at the last second.
Minutes later the same damn thing happened again. Gibbons hit a home run, I tripped on a cupholder, and this time sort of rolled down into the second row. The ball actually tipped off my glove as I was falling. Again, a random gloveless fan picked it up.
Double digits just wasn’t to be.
I got shut out for the rest of batting practice. I decided that I needed to get 10, so rather than leaving after BP like I had originally planned. I stayed. I decided to get 10 out of the way before the game started, so I went to this building on top of the scoreboard area to claim an easter egg that had to have been thrown there by a player, because its too far to have been hit:
Well, the area was off limits, so I quickly went in, expecting to see a ladder or something on the other side. Instead, I saw this:
Bathrooms. Apparently there’s no possible way to get on top of that roof.
I waited around until the game started and was able to get Garrett Jones to toss me ball #10 after he warmed up before the second inning began.
I added ball #11 before the sixth began with Andrew McCutchen’s outfield warm up ball:
That was all for today. Double digits! A great day.
Here are today’s baseballs:
Game: 11 balls (5 hit, 3 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season: 113 balls (43 hit, 30 thrown, 24 device, 15 found)
Games: 18 games
Average: 6.28 balls per game
Career: 1,235 balls
Today got off to a great start.
I got to the stadium around 4:25 PM or so and went down to the Riverwalk. Look what was waiting for me.
While there, a ball bounced out that the youngest of us grabbed, and another one bounced out that I completely misplayed. I notice a high fly ball that looked like it had a chance. I ran up to the wall, because it looked like it might just barely clear the wall. It did, after bouncing at least twice in the stadium. When the ball reappeared into my field of sight, I was to far to the left, and totally misplayed it. I tried to dive for it, but missed the ball, and one of the ‘new’ ballhawks grabbed it.
The rest of the time we spent staring at the sky, but nothing else came out.
When the gates opened, I ran in and found ball #2 laying on the cross aisle by the handicapped seats in left field. A food service employee actually pointed it out to me. He saw me sprinting, assumed I was looking for baseballs, and said, “There’s one right there.”
My third ball was hit by Steve Pearce. It was a ball that landed in section 133 and it rolled down the stairs under the bleachers and I just waited for it and picked it up.
Game: 6 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device, 2 found)
Season: 97 balls (35 hit, 26 thrown, 22 device, 13 found)
Games: 16 games
Average: 6.06 balls per game
Career: 1,219 balls
It was Easter Sunday, so a big crowd wasn’t going to be on hand, which was a bonus. However, the previous night’s game had ended around 11PM, and since today was a day game, the chances of batting practice were slim. Add to the fact that it had drizzled all morning, and there was virtually no chance of batting practice whatsoever.
I got to the ballpark at 11:05 AM, just in time to see three Pirates leaving the bullpen after a side session. Two of the folks at the bullpen fence had baseballs. I had missed an early opportunity.
PNC Park makes everyone stay on the Riverwalk for the first 30 minutes on Sundays, so there wasn’t too much to do. I noticed that someone doesn’t like Andrew McCutchen so much:
I met a couple ballhawks from Ohio. It was a father and son duo. They were friendly and snagged several balls of their own throughout the day.
I set up behind Sean Burnett throwing with Drew Storen. I got Sean Burnett to toss me my second ball of the day after they finished up.
I camped out near a third ball and waited patiently. I asked a coach for it, and he asked if I’d gotten a ball yet. Since it was Easter Sunday, I couldn’t lie. I told him I’d already got one today, but wouldn’t mind another. He threw the ball to another ballhawk, but I was hoping that it would give me some good karma.
After the Nationals were done, I walked around the park to take pictures and look for easter eggs.
Right Field Upper Deck:
Looking out towards the Point:
Abe was in the park, along with the other Nationals mascot Presidents.
Once the game started, I got Andrew McCutchen’s warm up ball in the first inning,
and Garrett Jones’ in the fourth.
That was pretty much it.
A few more random pictures:
Presidents vs Pierogis:
The Build a Bunny we got for our baby girl:
The sweatshirt Amy bought me:
And today’s four baseballs:
By the way, afterwards, we colored easter eggs:
Game: 4 balls (4 thrown)
Season: 65 balls (25 hit, 15 thrown, 16 device, 9 found)
Games: 10 games
Average: 6.50 balls per game
Career: 1,187 balls
2010 through 10 games: 69 balls (4 balls behind last year’s pace)
Today was the first day of a weekend long event at the David L Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh known as ‘Piratefest.’
Piratefest has been going on since the late 1980’s, as I remember going to a Piratefest in Monroeville and getting a baseball signed by Jim Leyland, Bill Landrum, Mike LaVailliere, Randy Kramer, Bobby Bonilla, Jeff King, etc.
The Pirates dedicated this first day to season ticket holders only. Earlier this month, I received four tickets to this day, plus 2 additional passes that could be used for any of the three days this weekend. In essence, I was given six tickets. So, I sold two of the for $25 earlier in the week. Leaving me two for today, and two that I would use on Sunday.
I asked Garrett Jones to sign one of the balls from my decoy collection (which is slowly dwindling away.) Decoy balls are balls I take to games to give away on occasion.
I didn’t ask Correia to sign anything, that was probably a jerk move, and in retrospect, I should’ve had him sign the Pirates 2011 Calendar that was given away.
Speaking of that Calendar, it was the highlight of Piratefest for me. The Pirates passed out a bag that included the Piratefest schedule and program along with a full 12 month 12 page Color calendar.
Here’s the front:
It included coupons, which are pretty useless to me.
The $5 off at the Pirates Clubhouse store is only valid on non game days. Also, the buy one get one free ticket offer doesn’t really help me out since I’m a season ticket holder.
Pedro Alvarez, April,
Jose Tabata, August
Andrew McCutchen, October
Pirate Parrot, December
After getting Jones to sign, we headed over to the Piratefest stage and watched ‘Minute to Win It’ Pirates Edition.
The game was hosted by PNC Park ballpark host Joe Klimchak and featured contestants trying to complete tasks in less than 60 seconds with every day household items. For each challenge that a contestant successfully completed in less than 60 seconds, they were awarded a prize and given the option to continue to the next ‘level’ or accept their prize and walk away.
The first two contestants were duds. The first was a young boy who was about 7 years old and was outmatched by the first game, known as Vacuum.
The boy had to transport five M&M’s from one side of the stage to the other using only a straw and his lung capacity to suck an M&M onto the end of the straw and keep it there until dropping it into a bucket at the other side of the stage. He couldn’t manage to get one M&M to even stay on his straw.
The second contestant we dubbed as ‘Perfume Lady’ because she had so much perfume on that it was overpowering. We could smell her from four rows away.
She managed to transport one M&M, which Joe Klimchak decided was ‘good enough,’ then failed miserably at the next task, which was blowing 20 cups off of a table using only a balloon that they could blow up multiple times.
The most successful contestant a fan named Bob, who went through all of the Minute to Win it tasks, before failing to keep three balloons in the air for a minute.
I recorded several of his challenges.
‘Bucket Head’ with Garrett Jones
There are four other videos that I’ll link instead of embedding in this blog of the fan’s other Minute to Win It Challenges. Click the links below to go to see them on youtube:
Defying Gravity (keeping three balloons in the air)
Junk In the Trunk (dancing around to empty 8 ping pong balls from a Kleenex box on one’s hips)
Quick Draw (empty a box of Kleenex using only one hand)
Cup Blow? (blow 20 cups off of a table using a balloon – not sure of the name here)
The other entertainment at the Piratefest stage included an ask the Pirates management session:
It featured Manager Clint Hurdle, General Manager Neal Huntington, and President Frank Coonelly.
We really didn’t hang around to watch because it was rather packed.
On the other side of the convention center, Garrett Jones was challenging fans at Guitar Hero. Yawn. No interest here.
Nearby were the Pirates promotional items for 2011. There aren’t as many as in years past, but here’s what you can expect in the coming year at PNC Park:
The most useful giveaway, and the only one that I ever keep will be Pirates T-Shirts, given away every Friday. Here are several of the shirts that you can look forward to in 2011:
There will be a 1971 Pirates World Series Celebration Canvas Photo Wrap:
A Neil Walker bobblehead (the only one of 2011) and a Pirates Stars and Stripes Floppy Hat:
An Andrew McCutchen Action Figurine and a Pirates hat:
And several of the kids Sunday giveaways:
The Friday session of Piratefest ended at 10PM, but we ended up leaving around 8, having seen enough.
Before taking off, I did the strike zone challenge, and threw two balls from about 15 feet away towards a 1 foot by 1 foot strike zone. One ball in the zone won a PNC Park photo wrap, while two out of two through the zone would win a Pirates T-Shirt.
We’ll be back at Piratefest on Sunday. An entry will be forthcoming.
I had seriously considered going to Cleveland today rather than dealing with the sellout crowd at PNC Park. However, I decided I just didn’t feel like driving four hours round trip for the fourth day in a week.
So, I gave PNC Park another try. One small thing going in my favor would be that the gates would open at 4:30 today, as is the PNC Park policy for Saturday games.
Upon entering, batting practice hadn’t yet begun and the pitchers were throwing in left field.
Evan Meek noticed Nick and I hustling around looking for easter eggs and shouted, there’s one up there, gesturing towards the upper general admission bleachers.
After a lengthy search, no ball would be found.
After batting practice finally began, I would get ball #1 tossed to me by Pirates starting pitcher Brad Lincoln.
During the second group of Pirates hitters, I would snag a Garrett Jones home run in left field. It was an opposite field shot that was a row in front of me, and I ended up trapping the ball against the bleacher on a short hop here:
I do believe that I will attend over 85 games, but so will Nick Pelescak, so the question may end up being who attends more?
As for the Total Balls in one season – its too early to tell if I’ll be able to continue to average over 6 balls per game.
I won’t be in action on July 4th, but have several trips lined up for next week.
I had the opportunity to watch batting practice on the field today. I had to be in the Pirates administrative offices at 4:15, where I would receive a lanyard and Suite tickets for tonight’s game.
However, the downfall of this opportunity is that the participants must stay in a small 15×15 area or so in center field. So snagging balls isn’t that easy.
Game: 8 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 234 balls (126 hit, 59 thrown, 22 device, 27 found)
Games: 36 games
Average: 6.50 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 812 balls
Streak: 132 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.