I took my first trip to Cleveland on Friday. Last year, I made 19 trips to Cleveland and was a 20 game season ticket holder. I didn’t renew my tickets and plan on making fewer trips this year, even though Progressive Field is one of my favorite stadiums to ballhawk in.
Amy was along with me for a weekend trip, that included a stop in Cleveland, and then two games at Miller Park in Milwaukee on Saturday and Sunday.
When we arrived, the rain had stopped, but when I peeked into the stadium, I saw the tarp out on the field, which is never a good sign – but it was negated by the fact that the cage was up, and there were several Indians out throwing. The only thing that the rain had ruined was early batting practice, meaning easter eggs would be unlikely.
Amy got in line at Gate C, and even though we arrived at 3:50, we were still first in line. I was hoping that maybe batting practice had started so there would be some balls in the seats, but it didn’t.
It ended up costing me a couple balls, because some balls landed in the seats, and I was more focused on finding balls than tracking them. It was an error, but luckily Travis Hafner was in the cage, and he was in fine form today.
Perez has thrown me more baseballs than any during batting practice. He’s probably THE most generous pitcher in terms of distributing souvenirs to fans that I’ve seen. Although Livan Hernandez of the Washington Nationals is a close second. Thanks Chris!
Another teenaged ballhawk had beaten me down there as he was in the section by the bullpen, but he couldn’t find the ball anywhere.
So even though the Indians BP was great, and I started out on fire, it all got evened out by that cold stretch, as I failed to snag another ball during the Indians portion of batting practice.
Luckily, the Seattle Mariners feature a ton of lefties, so my chances of getting a few more would be decent.
Ichiro was the first batter for the Mariners, and he didn’t disappoint. He put ball after ball into the seats.
It was an easy glove trick ball. All I’d have to do is fling my glove out a few feet, knock the ball closer to the wall, and it’d be mine. The only problem was that a security guard was thirty feet down the line, staring directly at the area where I’d have to do the glove trick.
I decided to go and just do it quickly. I went and snagged the ball, as planned, and the security supervisor marched down and demanded that I give the ball back. I did. But it wasn’t the same ball. It was a beat up decoy ball that Nick and I use to play catch with on the Roberto Clemente bridge. I kept ball #8 in my possession.
Back in right field, ball #10 was a clean catch that literally saved some lady’s face. I ran over and caught the ball on the run directly in front of an elderly woman who wasn’t paying attention at all. Amy didn’t get the picture because it was obstructed, but here I am labeling the ball.
Amy was sitting probably about twenty rows back taking pictures, when one of the lefties hit a bomb that landed a section over from her. There was no one in the vicinity but her, so as several other fans raced in to claim it. She got up and acted like she was going to go snag the ball. This caused the other fans to lay off, and gave me enough time to go get the ball. Amy knows that if she had picked it up, it wouldn’t have counted, so that’s why she left it there for me to get. She gets a huge assist on ball #11.
It was picked up in row R under a seat
It was a line drive home run that smacked an elderly man directly in the chest, knocking him down into his chair. I picked the ball up a row behind him and gave it to him. It would’ve been nice to have kept my thirteenth ball, but given the situation, I felt I had to give the ball up.
Amy and I left right after batting practice to head to Milwaukee.
Game: 13 balls (9 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 131 balls (54 hit, 33 thrown, 25 device, 18 found)
Games: 20 games
Average: 6.55 balls per game
Career: 1,253 balls
Yet another day at Progressive Field.
When I entered the stadium I found my first ball of the day in the second row back in the second section from the visitor’s bullpen.
I had to be sneaky about it because there were several people in the front row, so I casually walked over to the ball without looking at it and picked it up. Had I jogged toward it looking at it someone may have noticed and turned around and grabbed it.
(The ball extended my snagging streak to 162 games with at least one ball snagged. 162 is an important number in baseball – its the number of games each team plays total during the season.)
My second ball of the day was a ground rule double hit by Shelley Duncan. It bounced into the trees, and was waiting in Heritage Park when I got there,
Game: 6 balls ( 4 hit, 1 device, 1 found )
Season: 431 balls (221 hit, 95 thrown, 59 device, 56 found)
Balls in the month of August: 80
Games: 66 games
Average: 6.53 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 1,009 balls
Streak: 162 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I decided to attend this game in Cleveland, seeing as the Pirates were off and I would not be able to attend this weekend’s Friday and Saturday’s games due to a wedding.
I began the day with a career tally of 392 balls snagged. I would need 8 to get to 400. It would’ve been nice to get a landmark ball outside of PNC Park for once.
I arrived at the stadium at 3:35, and the Indians were already inside hitting. It is not unusual for Indians to be taking early BP, I’ve seen it many times, so I didn’t think much of it at the time.
At the gates I was greeted by PNC Park ballhawks Bryan Pelescak and his brother Nick. They were the first ones in line and had already snagged balls over outside the left field gates. The top three ballhawks at PNC Park had all made the trip (We all have over 100 balls snagged apiece this season). There would likely be some stiff competition today.
When the gates opened, I ran into the right field bleachers to search for Easter Eggs. I ran down the center area of the right field seats, looking around quickly for any balls. I got down to the front row and spotted a ball to my right. I picked up ball #1. On the board. A few feet further in the same row was ball #2. Another section over was ball #3. I then spotted another ball but a police offer hurriedly went over and picked it up. “I need this,” he snorted. “It’s cool, I already found some,” I said. I then ran over to Heritage Park. This was within maybe a minute or two of the park opening, so I was hoping I would be the first one there. However, a young ballhawk, maybe 14 years old had beaten me there. He was trying to reach a ball that was at the back of the wall underneath the fence in heritage park. He stood up and began to walk away, but then saw me out of the corner of his eye and went back to the spot. I went over and asked if he had anything to get the ball with, he said he didn’t. I got out my 72 inch ruler and told him he should also check the tall grass for balls. It took me only a few seconds to push the ball closer to me, and I had ball #4. I probably should’ve given it to the kid, but I was in such a hurry to get back to right field to look for more Easter Eggs that I just ran off. I felt guilty a minute later as soon as I realized that I snubbed the kid. It was a jerk move on my part. I didn’t feel so bad after the teen sent me a nasty hateful email (apparently he knows of my blog – how else would he know to run directly to Heritage Park?) filled with swear words and random personal attacks. (Don’t worry Marty R from Salem OH, I won’t post your message or any of your personal info here (IP address, etc)-I’m not going to sink that low – just think before you go spouting off) I’m sure next time he’ll be better prepared with a device of his own to get those hard to reach balls in Heritage Park.
I continued to walk up and down every row searching for balls while Nick and Bryan did the same thing. I soon found ball #5, tucked at the bottom of a folded up chair. Nick also found five. Progressive Field is an Easter Egg heaven.
Then I realized something was wrong. There were no Indians on the field. The groundscrew had come out and started watering the dirt on the infield.
Not good. I was off to a fantastic start, and the Indians are a great right field hitting BP team. I would’ve had an excellent chance at double digits.
The crowd was sparse too.
When the ball was in view, I went to work. I had to be quick because there were policemen in the market pavilion behind me, and a worker who’s supposed to watch the bullpen. I was able to get the ball on the first attempt, and slowly reeled it in for ball #7. A few impressed spectators asked me how I was able to get the ball, and I explained the glove trick to them.
I went back to left field, but it was really crowded at this point. I had little range.
Luckily, a right handed batter hit a ball that bounced on the warning track, and into the trees in Heritage Park. I had a chance to nab my 400th career ball. I ran up the steps in center field and over to Heritage Park.
When I got to the spot, a teenager had a ball and was gloating about his prize. Oh well. I decided to check anyway. Wouldn’t you know it, there it was, a ball that was tucked away at the back of the outfield wall behind the base of one of the trees. It would be a tough ball to get because one of the monuments prevented me from inserting the collapsible ruler straight on.
After some finangling, I was able to get the ball close enough to reach in and grab ball #8 (#400).
I ended BP over in left field. Unfortunately, the last group featured utility players and back ups, so few home runs were hit.
I ended the day with eight baseballs. I went back to Heritage Park to do one last check for any balls that I may have missed. On my way there, an old guy, who had been repeatedly pestering me in right field for baseballs offered to buy one off of me for $3. I turned him down. “Sorry, I don’t sell them.” When I was looking for balls in Heritage Park, along with Nick, a teenager offered Nick $20 for a ball. When Nick turned him down, he made me the same offer. I also turned him down. “I don’t sell them, plus I wrote on all the ones I got. Sorry.” I told him. If I had brought along some extras I would’ve sold him one. I probably have at least 100 MLB balls at home that I didn’t snag, and aren’t part of my official collection. I use them to give away on occasion, especially in times like the scenario that played out with ball #4 today.
After BP, I took off, hoping to get home before dusk. Which I did achieve, even with a stop at Wendy’s for dinner. (Small Chili, 1 Grilled Chicken Go-Wrap).
I haven’t been staying at many games lately. I don’t have time to with my new hobby.
And the sweet spots:
Game: 8 Balls (5 hit, 3 device)
Season: 234 Balls (124 hit, 75 thrown, 35 device)
Games: 47 Games (5 of them didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.98 Balls per Game
Career: 400 Balls