As you may have noticed, for over a week or so now, I have been blogging every day. The purpose was to increase my readership during the offseason as we head towards opening day, get myself back into the habit of blogging, and count down the days one blog at a time.
In order to reward you for reading, I’ve decided to give away a MLB prize each week. Every Monday, I will post a contest for new item. Then, a winner will be chosen on Sunday, a week later.
So let’s begin by showing you what is being given away in the #countingbaseballs giveaway for this week. It’s…
A Matt Wieters Baltimore Orioles name and number official Majestic shirt. Retail value $22. Brand new. With tags.
Up close front:
Brand new from the store:
Since I’m extra nice, the winner may choose a size MEDIUM or LARGE. If you’re on the bigger side, I’m sorry – I’ll try and have larger shirts in the future. But you could always re-gift if you win. Anyhow, this shirt is sure to please and Orioles fan, or ballhawk that will see the Orioles at a game in 2012. Oh, and I’ll even pay the postage.
How to Enter:
1) Leave a comment.
You can enter up to seven times per week simply by leaving a comment. Non-pertinent, spam, or inappropriate comments will not be accepted. If you comment multiple times on the same blog entry, it still counts as one entry. For example, if you commented on three different blog posts from this week, you’d have three entries.
2) Retweet (RT) my posts on Twitter
You can find me on twitter under 333greystreet. Simply retweet my daily posts with a #countingbaseballs in your RT each day and I’ll count that as an entry. My blog is connected to my twitter so that I automatically tweet once I post a new entry. Each day, I’ll search #countingbaseballs to see who’s retweeted me and enter those users into a hat along with the commenters.
At the end of the week on Sunday, I’ll have Olivia, Amy or I will choose a name from a hat and announce the winner. Maybe we’ll do it on youtube. The maximum number of entries per week is 14 if you leave comments and retweet.
Anyhow, I thought this would be a cool idea to give away some of my extra MLB Stuff.
I’ll end this post with some thoughts about Matt Wieters.
Where does he rank for you among the best catchers in the American League? Who is better than him? Mike Napoli? Carlos Santana? Joe Mauer? Alex Avila? I’ll rank him at 2nd. I like Carlos Santana best, but that’s probably because he plays for my second favorite team and I snagged a game HR ball from him in 2009.
Long suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fans are all too familiar with Matt Wieters. In 2007, the Pirates, led by David Littlefield, passed on Matt Wieters in order to select Daniel Moskos. Outrage ensued at the Pirates’ cheapness and on June 30th 2007, Bob Walk bobblehead night, fans orchestrated a walk out. Fans wore green to the game to signify owner Bob Nutting’s greed and then walked out at a pre-determined time. I was at the game, but I can’t exactly remember when it happened. The game was virtually a sell out, and although a few thousand people left, it wasn’t too noticeable in the grand scheme of things.
Wieters broke into the league in 2009 and has hit 42 home runs and has been an All Star. Daniel Moskos finally was promoted to the Major Leagues in 2011 and although he posted a 2.96 ERA in 24 innings. His H/9 (10.9) and WHIP (1.56) were high. In the Minors, he has a career 4.41 ERA, including a 5.46 ERA in 39 games at the AAA level. So, he really hasn’t proven in the minors that he’ll have a successful big league career yet.
And that catching position, well, the Pirates really REALLY needed Matt Wieters because rather than penciling his name in at catcher every day, over the last three years we’ve had to deal with Wyatt Toregas, Matt Pagnozzi, Eric Fryer, Dusty Brown, Jason Jaramillo, Chris Snyder, Ryan Doumit, Michael McKenry, Erik Kratz and Robinzon Diaz (who we traded Jose Bautista to get!)
God help us Pirates fans.
65 Days until opening day…
Amy pointed out that I forgot to mention that we attended a Renaissance Festival over the weekend. Here’s a picture from that.
Shooting arrows was the highlight because I was surprisingly good at it. Anyone, this really doesn’t tie in at all, unless I made some weird caption like, “Erik Jabs aims for 413 as the season winds down, to break his 2nd best single season mark.”
The Cardinals are in town now and have been really stingy this year at tossing up baseballs, so I was going to need some luck today.
Upon running in, I spotted a ball in the front row. I ran over to snag it when out of no where a ticket seller who works at the windows on the first base side of the Honus Wagner statue shot out of his chair in the handicapped seats and raced down and grabbed the ball. He literally snatched it as I was closing in and not but five feet away from grabbing it. Nick Pelescak was right there too and might have grabbed it also. We both gave him a look like, “Are you serious?” He said he was going to give it to a little kid (even though he had already been there since God knows when and had a whole bag full of baseballs that he had already picked up from the hour of batting practice when there were no fans in the stadium). Nick started saying some stuff to him, and I’ll try and get his name and picture tomorrow. Anyhow, that ball was kind of important because it would end up costing me my first double digit game since June.
Then I went on a hit-ball snagging rampage from the end of the Pirates BP through the Cardinals BP. Every ball I snagged the rest of the day was a batted ball.
I caught a Pirates home run as I walked up the bleachers one after the other and made a pretty difficult clean catch here:
When the Cardinals came out, I snagged two Matt Holliday home runs within 20 second of one another. They may have been back to back.
One was a home run that landed on a staircase and stayed on the steps. I scrambled up the steps and grabbed it with my bare hand as another ballhawk reached for it a split second late with his glove.
The next pitch a ball landed about twelve rows up into the upper bleachers. I raced up and snagged it as a few other ballhawks raced after it
My fifth ball of the day was a home run that I picked up after it bounced off a bleacher. A young ballhawk who was maybe 10 years old tried to rip it from my glove, so after I had possession of it I asked if he’d gotten a ball yet. Nick Pelescak standing nearby said, “Yeah he got one already,” so the ultra aggressive young fan just walked away. There was a lot of random non-regulars there getting lots of baseballs today.
Ball #6 was really ridiculously lucky. A deep home run landed in the wheel chair section and as I was drifting over, it hit something and took a soft ricochet right at me. I snagged it immediately in the air. That was truly lucky.
I was later told by Nick that ball #6 was hit by Albert Pujols.
After spending an unsuccessful round in right field for a group of solely left handed hitters, I made my way back to left field and immediately snagged a ground rule double near the bullpen:
Immediately, I thought it would be pretty cool to get one more ball. I had gotten 8 balls on Saturday and Sunday, and wanted to continue that streak to three games.
By the way, look how EMPTY it was at 6 o’clock!
Anyhhow, ball #8 happened when Tony Cruz launched a deep fly ball that sailed way over my head. Realizing it was headed toward the rotunda. I just turned and ran underneath the rotunda, and when it started bouncing around the concourse, I tracked it down for ball #8.
For good measure, Cruz lifted another home run at the very end of batting practice that I caught right behind this lady’s head.
Amy and I had club seats for today’s game, but I didn’t feel like staying, even though I was on 9 balls and only needed one more for double digits. I sold the seats after we left the park, and then we went and got dinner and I went to the gym. I felt it was a better usage of my time than running all over the ballpark trying for one more ball. Plus, we plan on staying at tomorrow’s game as we have tickets in a section that I’ve never sat in before…
Here are today’s baseballs:
Game: 9 balls (8 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 390 balls (167 hit, 84 thrown, 87 device, 52 found)
Games: 72 games
Average: 5.42 per game
Career: 1,512 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 4 (maybe 5 if I do an away game next weekend)
Needed to reach goal: 23 (5.75 per game)
After missing yesterday’s game due to coaching, I was looking forward to attending my first game of the week today, on Cinco de Mayo.
I ran in, trailing fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak. Nick broke to the left towards the bullpen, so I was left to search near the ushers. Surprisingly, there was a ball sitting there in the third row on the ground. I was on the board.
I got my second and third balls of the day during the Pirates BP in this area: The General Admission Bleachers.
The balls bounced on the walkway behind me and hopped up into the bleachers. I don’t know who hit ball #2, but ball #3 was off the bat of Ronny Cedeno.
I caught my fourth ball of the day off the bat of Jason Jaramillo. I caught it on the fly in the second row (which is an accomplishment, as I typically stay away from the first two rows).
That was it for the Pirates BP, and the Cubs came out.
I didn’t have to wait long to get my first Cubs ball, as Derrek Lee hit a high fly ball that bounced on the warning track, and six rows back into my glove.
Soon after, I glove tricked ball #6 in this area:
Game: 8 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 77 balls (47 hit, 15 thrown, 8 device, 7 found)
Games: 11 games
Average: 7.00 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 655 balls
Streak: 107 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I needed to rebound after driving 4 hours to Washington and only getting three balls, despite a full BP. My redemption would come today.
I arrived at the stadium a few minutes before the gates opened. Although there were no easter eggs that I could find, I did end up getting on the board rather quickly.
My first and second balls that I snagged were off the bat of Jason Jaramillo. The first hit a bleacher, and I ran over and picked up, and the second was a ground rule double that bounced to me over the fence.
For whatever reason, Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge were hitting in the last group today. Typically, the last group is reserved for light-hitting backups. If this trend continues, it could be very good, considering there are very few folks at BP early, and both players have home run power.
Anyhow, that was it for Pirates BP. Two balls.
The Brewers came out, and I was hoping for some action. Unfortunately, most Brewers were wearing their warm up jerseys,
so I couldn’t identify many batters, except for obvious ones like Prince Fielder, Craig Counsell or Corey Hart.
Game: 12 balls (8 hit, 3 thrown, 1 found)
Season: 39 balls (24 hit, 6 thrown, 5 device, 4 found)
Games: 7 games
Average: 5.57 balls per game
Career: 617 balls
Streak: 103 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
2009 through 7 games: 29 (Currently I am 10 balls ahead of last year’s career high season)
My first game of the 2009 season was a Pirates vs Reds game at Great American Park. I figured the best way to close the season was by making my final game of the 2009 season a Pirates vs Reds game at Great American Park.
I left my house around 11 AM, and arrived just before 4 PM.
Unfortunately, the gates at Great American don’t open until 90 minutes before the first pitch, so I would have to wait around until 5:40 to get in. I was thinking, “I should’ve gone to Baltimore.” (To see the Blue Jays vs Orioles).
I sat outside the center field gate, read the newspaper, checked scored on my phone, and waited for the gates to open. While there, Cincinnati natives tried to engage me in conversations about the NFL and the Steelers, a subject that I didn’t really care to talk about at a baseball game. Unlike most Pittsburghers, I’m pretty indifferent when it comes to the Steelers and Penguins.
When the gates finally did open, I ran in and snapped a quick picture.
I had a whole TWENTY FIVE MINUTES of ballhawking. No wonder I
didn’t do so well here earlier in the season (eight balls over two
If I hadn’t had bought a ticket directly behind the Pirates dugout, I
may have left to get back to Pittsburgh at a decent hour. Plus, 411
isn’t a great looking number to me. I wanted to get one more ball.
I walked around the stadium and snapped a few more pictures:
Before the game began, I got Andy LaRoche to toss me his warm up ball, except right before he was about to release it, he pump faked upon seeing a four year old girl with her glove up, two rows behind me. He paused and pointed at the girl and underhanded the ball. The ball floated two feet to my right. I should’ve reached out and grabbed it, and given it to the girl, but I didnt. I watched it float slowly by and land in the little girl’s glove. I started kicking myself for not catching it – it would’ve been ball #7 of the day.
I would have to try and get a ball by some other means.
In the second inning, Pirates’ first baseman Garrett Jones tossed me ball #7 as he came off the field. I was a bit disappointed that he had switched the warm up ball tossed by the coach with the game ball that he was bringing in towards the dugout.
I watched in subsequent innings as he did the same thing.
With the Pirates trailing by a large margin, I left in the 6th inning to make the four and a half hour drive back to Pittsburgh. I got home sometime after 1:30AM.
Was it worth the trip for 25 minutes of batting practice? I’d say so. I ended the season on a positive note, with seven balls, and 412 snagged during the 2009 season.
Coincidentally, 412 is also my telephone area code, which is somewhat cool.
Game: 7 balls (6 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 412 balls (217 hit, 125 thrown, 70 device)
Games: 81 games (10 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.09 balls per game
Career: 578 balls
Streak: 96 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I went down by the river before the gates open to try and snag a ball. Usually one or two per day will sail out of the stadium.
Ballhawking by the river takes a lot of patience and concentration, because you can’t see the ball until the last moment, so you have to be extremely focused. It doesn’t help that seemingly every passer by feels the need to stop and ask you what you’re doing.
After ten minutes of standing motionless starting at the sky, I saw a ball flying towards me. I moved quickly to my right, but the ball was over my head and landed in the river, on the fly.
YES! I’d finally get to use my new device to snag a ball. I took out a golf ball retriever and unfurled the 14 foot pole. I laid on my stomach and reached out at the ball. I was about a foot short.
I could’ve repositioned my body, waited for the ball to drift in towards the shore, or double checked to made sure that the pole was fully extended. However, some guy on a jetski comes motoring up and reaches over to grab the ball.
“Can you just move it a bit closer,” I asked. Not listening, he picked up the ball and flipped it to me (as I was laying on my stomach, fully extended.)
Since the guy grabbed the ball and tossed it to me, I couldn’t count the ball in my stats, and I was furious about it.
That was the only ball that would exit the stadium.
I would eventually get ball #1 off the bat of Jason Jaramillo. He hit a home run that landed on the left field rotunda, which I sprinted up and picked up the ball as it was rolling down the ramp.
Ball #2 was a home run that Pedro Feliz would hit. It was an easy catch. Little did I know that I would encounter poor luck and be shut out the rest of the day.
During the second Phillies group, I went to right field, where I had a ball hit the heel of my glove and fall to the floor. Some Phillies fan scooped it up. Since I have a glove trick, I have a large ball of string tucked into the bottom of my glove. Usually, I catch balls in the webbing. However, this ball hit on the heel, and I wasn’t able to close my glove around the ball thanks to the big ball of string.
It was a glaring, awful error. After it happened, my attitude soured, and I didn’t even want to be there anymore.
Game: 2 balls (2 hit)
Season: 319 balls (166 hit, 93 thrown, 59 device)
Games: 67 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.76 balls per game
Career: 485 balls
Streak: 82 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Today was a bounce back day for me. After nearly being shut out yesterday, I got on the board quickly today.
Within the first 30 seconds of being in the park, I had a ball. Upon entering the bleacher area, I checked in the general admission bleachers (upper bleachers). Balls rarely go up there, but every now and then a power hitter will reach them, or a ball will bounce on the concrete and settle up there.
I ran up the steps and found ball #1 waiting for me in the front row.
I got ball #2 off the bat of Jason Jaramillo, who was hitting right handed. He hit a high fly ball to my right. I ran over a section, but lost the ball in the sun momentarily. The ball landed on a bleacher and settled near my feet, and I was able to reach down and quickly grab it.
Ball #3 came from Brandon Moss. He fielded a ball and looked to the bleachers. I held my glove up, and he fired the ball at me.
The Pirates wrapped up their portion of batting practice a bit early. There was a ball up against the outfield wall that I was waiting to use the glove trick on. I wasn’t going to do the trick with the Pirates in the field, because they all recognize me by now, and I don’t want to look greedy. Luckily, the Pirates jogged off the field, leaving the ball at the wall. I sprang into action and reeled in ball #4 with the glove trick.
The Cubs came out to hit, and Alfonso Soriano began shagging in left field.
Luckily, he was only focused on the balls that a coach was hitting him, and didn’t bother himself with any BP balls hit his way. A Cubs batter hit a line drive that trickled to the edge of the warning track. It was glove trickable, but not without drawing lots of attention to myself from throwing my glove a good 15 feet or more out onto the field. I decided to let it go.
Then, a grounds keeper walked by and kicked the ball to the base of the wall. “Maybe they’ll toss it up to one of yinz,” he said.
Game: 7 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 224 balls (117 hit, 75 thrown, 32 device)
Games: 45 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.98 balls per game
Career: 390 balls
Today was the Mets’ second of four games in Pittsburgh, and my second attempt at getting a commemorative ball.
I got to the gates a little after 4 PM and was second in line. When the gates opened, I jogged into the bleachers and was the first one there. I saw a ball as I entered one of the sections. I quickly ran down and grabbed ball #1, as other ballhawks were right behind me. Much to my surprise…
it was a Shea Stadium commemorative ball from last year. Nice! I still would’ve rather had a Citi Field ball, but I’ll take it.
Moments later as I moved towards the foul pole, I found ball #2. Finding two Easter eggs is an awesome start, usually there aren’t any.
Ball #3 came from Tony Beasley. He made sure that all of the regular ballhawks got a ball today. What a good guy.
When the Mets came out to hit, there weren’t many pitchers shagging in the outfield. A ball was hit to the 410 sign in center field. It was very glove “trickable.” I started to make my way over to get the ball. Just as I got to the bullpen, a deep ball was hit right at me. Mike Pelfrey ran back and made the snag. I thought, “Great. He’s going to pick up that ball too.” Luckily, Pelfrey didn’t see it, and walked back to center field. Moments later, I reeled up ball #4.
I went back towards the foul pole when a fellow ballhawk and PNC Park regular, Dan, pointed out another ball to me. It must have rolled to the 410 sign when I was walking back to my spot. I went over and reeled in ball #5 after one failed attempt. I think I will need a new rubber band soon. The one I have might be getting to stretched out.
In the middle of the Mets batting practice, Gary Sheffield launched a deep home run to my left. I could tell it was a bomb, so rather than positioning myself in line with the ball, I ran back to the cross aisle that seperates the lower bleachers from the upper deck bleachers. The ball hit in the cross aisle and rolled partly under the overhang of the upper level bleachers. I reached down and gloved ball #6.
I made a huge mistake by heading over to center field for the last group. The final group taking batting practice was predominently left handed, so I figured I’d have a better shot. There was only one right handed batter.
Check out how empty batting practice was. There aren’t many people in the left field bleachers.
Within minutes, he was surrounded by security guards. A man in a suit came out with a clipboard and the negotiating began. It lasted about an inning. I’m not sure what the kid asked for, but there were about 4 things written down on the sheet of paper on the clip board.
It got me thinking what I would ask for if I had caught the home run. I decided that I’d ask for a game ball signed by Jaramillo, the chance to deliver the ball to him in person, and his word that he’d toss me 1 ball at any batting practice I attended (if he was in the outfield and I asked for one.)
Later in the game, I was getting
thirsty. I decided to go fill up my water bottle. As I was passing this Nacho Express stand, something caught my eye.
Yes, you guessed it. Another Easter Egg.
I had to almost lay on the ground to get that picture. I had to reach around the side of the stand to get ball #8. People probably thought I was a big weirdo for laying on the ground and reaching under a Nacho Express stand, but when they saw I pulled a ball out, I saw a few surprised faces.
I went back to center field in the ninth inning to try and get Nate’s warm up ball. His throw hit some guys arm, richoted right in front of me, but I wasn’t ready and misplayed it. Some one picked the ball up 2 rows ahead of me.
I then headed to the dugout. I had to run half of the way there, because Matt Capps got 3 quick outs. I just barely made it to the dugout as umpire Ted Barrett was coming off the field, but was in a terrible spot, off to the side of the tunnel. He gave two balls away, but not to me.
That was it for today.
When I arrived home I had this waiting for me:
I had been waiting all day for it, since I was off work today, but it didn’t arrive until after I left for the Pirate game. It was my Super Deluxe copy of Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, Dave Matthews Band’s new album.
The CD was released today, and I had ordered it off of the Warehouse (fan club) so I could get some bonus items.
I spent the rest of my night looking through the booklets and watching the DVD. I didn’t listen to the CD the whole way through until the next day because I wanted to blast it, and it was too late to do that. I’d reccommend picking it up at Target or Best Buy for $9.99 this week. It’s their best album since 1998. Seriously.
The sweet spots:
Game: 8 Balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 151 Balls (67 hit, 62 thrown, 22 device)
Games: 30 Games (26 with BP/4 without)
Average: 5.03 Balls Per Game
Career: 317 Balls
I attended today’s game with my wife. I had to wait for her to get home for work, so we didn’t get to the stadium until 4:55 PM, just in time before the 5 PM gate opening.
Usually I get 1 ball during the Pirates portion during the week (they only hit for about 10-15 more minutes after the gates open). Today, though, I had 4 balls by 5:04. I’ve never gotten off to a start like that in my life.
Ball #1 was tossed from Nyjer Morgan.
Game: 10 balls (4 hit, 4 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 84 balls (32 hit, 43 thrown, 9 device)
Games: 16 games (13 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.25 balls per game
Career: 250 balls
Throughout the day, I thought for sure that batting practice would be canceled. It was raining this morning when I left for work. Raining when I went to lunch. Raining when I left work. Drizzling when I left for the game. So, imagine my surprise when I walked past the left field gates and saw the screens and cage being set up. (The Pirates needed the extra BP after not hitting a home run in more than a week and getting shut out yesterday).
Upon entering the stadium, there was one Easter Egg ball, but another ballhawk got to it first. The Pirates portion of batting practice was slow for me. I got ball #1 when Jason Jaramillo tossed me a baseball before the Pirates finished up at 5:15. Jaramillo was very gracious to all three regular ballhawks in attendance, hooking us each up with a ball.
A few action shows:
Paul Maholm deals:
Yovani Gallardo to Nyjer Morgan:
Gallardo throws a pitch:
After Matt Capps blew the save and gave up 4 runs in the 9th, I went to the Pirates dugout. (the Pirates lost their SIXTEENTH game in a row to the Brewers).
I usually get shut out at the dugout, having only received one ball there this year before today. The umpire, Bob Davidson came off the field and tossed me a really nice rubbed up game ball. Ball #7.
Not a bad night after all.
Here’s today’s balls:
And the sweet spots: (the 4th ball from the pitcher in center had MVP written on it)
The umpire ball is at the front and center.
Game: 7 balls (2 hit, 5 thrown)
Season: 74 balls (28 hit, 39 thrown, 7 device)
Games: 15 games (12 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 4.93 balls per game
Career: 240 balls