The day didn’t start off on the right foot, as I was a few minutes late to batting practice. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak already had seven balls by the time I entered the stadium. Amazing.
I had some work to do to catch up, as we began the week tied atop the standings of the Ballhawk League (BHL).
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge have been hitting in the last group of Pirates. So, for the 10-15 minutes that we get to see the Pirates hit, at least there’s some right handed semi-power hitters in the group.
I got ball #1 off the bat of Andrew McCutchen. It was a home run that landed in an empty section to my right that I ran over and grabbed.
Soon after, Lastings Milledge hit a ball onto the Rotunda that I ran up the ramp to snag as it slowly rolled down towards me. That would be it for the Pirates portion.
Luckily, the Brewers have been good to me lately. I changed into my Brewers gear.
And then would get started on a nice roll in an empty park.
“I’d better get my glove on,” I thought. No less than seconds after I had my glove on my
hand, Duke delivered his second pitch of the game. Weeks hit a slicing fly ball foul, directly at me. I immediately stood up and went into ballhawk mode. I took several steps to my left and made the clean catch on the fly. It was my first foul ball since snagging my first last year on September 23, 2009.
Upon catching the ball I did a fist bump and a little bit of celebration, which must have caught the eye of Tim Neverett and Bob Walk, who commented on the catch. It was also enough to get FSN to cut back to me.
Someone in the Pirates brass must have seen the catch, because moments later I was approached by a Pirates representative with a mic in hand. He introduced himself, congrulated me on my catch, and explained that he would like to invite me to be on the PNC Park game show “Know Your Buccos,” at the end of the second inning.
As instructed, I went over in the middle of the second and chatted with Joe Klimchak, who explained the game that I would be participating in. Basically, four ‘fun’ facts about a Pirate are presented, and the participant must eliminate the false answer.
When we went live, Joe introduced me, telling the crowd about the foul ball I had just snagged, and explained how I could win the fabulous prize (a $65 Pirates sweatshirt.)
I had to figure out which of the following facts were false regarding Ronny Cedeno:
I knew the Vizquel fact was probably true, given they are both Dominican. I also figured that Old School sounded like a type of movie that a man of Cedeno’s age would enjoy. I was torn between the First Job and the name of his cat.
I thought it over and just thought, “Who would name their cat Meow?” “Come here Meow… that would just sound stupid.” So I eliminated the cat named Meow.
After a few pressure filled seconds, it was revealed that Ronny does not have a cat named Meow, I had eliminated the false answer, and won the $65 jacket.
If you’d like to check out a video of my Know Your Buccos spot, you can check out the youtube link below.
I went back to my seat and watched the rest of the game, glove in hand.
Lightning wouldn’t strike twice. Would it?
Well it did.
Andrew McCutchen came up to bat in the fifth inning.
He fouled off a pitch in the same spot as the Week’s foul ball. I shot up out of my chair immediately when I saw the angle the ball took off the bat. This time, the ball was dying on me. It didn’t quite reach me, as it was about a row and a half ahead of me. I reached down and got it to hit my glove and knocked it into the row directly below me. I would liken the play to a catcher smothering a ball in the dirt. The ball came to a dead stop and I picked up my second foul ball of the day. Amazing.
Would I go on to catch my thirteenth ball of the night? A third foul ball in the game?
It was certainly empty enough for it to happen, as the Pirates were getting blown out, and the weather had turned cold.
There’s probably more fans at high school baseball games, but that’s Pittsburgh on week nights for you. Low, low attendance, especially after 10PM, like it was in the picture above.
I would end the night with those two foul balls, a sweatshirt, twelve total balls snagged, and probably the best ballhawking performance of my career.
Game: 12 balls (10 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 51 balls (34 hit, 7 thrown, 6 device, 4 found)
Games: 8 games
Average: 6.38 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 2
Career: 629 balls
Streak: 104 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
2009 through 8 games: 31 (Currently I am 20 balls ahead of last year’s career high season pace)
The Pirates were back in town today, facing the hated Brew-Crew.
This was my view from 4:15-4:55.
My friend Nick and I noticed a ballhawk running by who stands on the Riverwalk on a daily basis, waiting for home runs. Since he does it regularly, he must have at least some luck out there. (The guy stays out there the entire BP, even after the gates open). So, with nothing better to do, we decided to join him.
There was indeed one ball that came out in the time we were there. It bounced off of the concourse behind section 140, and went through the trees towards the river. The guy ran over and made a nice backhanded pick of the ball, just before it skipped into the Allegheny River.
Ballhawking on the Riverwalk is tough. You have to be very patient, and extemely focused. If you look away for a minute, or listen to a passerby’s comments, you’ll be distracted and miss a possible opportunity.
At one point, a photographer walked by and asked me what I was doing. I told him that batting practice was going on, and we were waiting for a ball to come out. He the proceeded to take pictures of the three of us ballhawks for the next fifteen minutes, from all angles. He never asked permission, or told us if he was affiliated with any newspaper. (I assumed he was with the Post Gazette or Tribune Review) In the picture below, you can see him sitting on the ground, snapping photos of Nick Pelescak.
He threw me ball #3. (It probably helped that I was the only fan in Brewers gear for the first 30 minutes).
One guy, who watched me get those balls tossed, made a few comments about how I “have all these shirts in the back of my car.” I couldn’t tell if he was trying to make fun of me, or not, but he went on to say the same line about five more times throughout the day to people around him.
I got ball #4 via the glove trick in left field. I struggled with this one, probably taking almost two minutes to reel it in. I had to first knock it closer, and then the rubber band wasn’t quite right. I had to adjust it several times. As the rubber band gets used, it becomes more stretchy, and needs adjusted differently. I was almost foiled by Brewers coach Joe Crawford. When I finally got the ball to stick in the glove, Crawford hurled his glove from about forty feet away, in an attempt to knock the ball out of my glove. Luckily, I had just begun to pull the ball up, and it narrowly missed it. He came over to get his glove, and had a huge smile on his face. “This wall is too low here. Its too easy for you guys to do that.”
A little while later, I caught ball #5 on the fly. It was a can of corn. However, Jody Gerut watched me make the catch, and immediately started screaming at me from left field. “That’s TWO for you now. Do the right thing!” I nodded. He screamed about three more times, “Do the right thing, Do the right thing, Do the right thing.” At this point several Brewers were staring at me, and Gerut pointed me out to them, probably telling them that he had just tossed me a ball moments earlier.
I quickly went into my backpack and took out one of my decoy balls. (Balls that I have that I didn’t personally snag and don’t count in my stats or my collection. These are MLB balls that friends have given to me in exchange for tickets).
I held up the decoy ball for Gerut to see and tossed it to the nearest kid with a glove. He gave me a thumbs up. I yelled to him, “That’s a Pirate ball from earlier.” I wanted him to keep the impression that I was a huge Brewers fan and wanted to keep just the Brewers baseballs.
I spent a few minutes in center field and chickened out on a very glove trickable ball. The nice ushers weren’t in center field today, and I didn’t feel l
ike getting yelled at. Plus, I had struggled mightly with ball #4, and didn’t want to go through that again.
After Claudio Vargas picked up the ball that I should’ve glove tricked and tossed it to a kid, I headed back to left field.
There, I made almost back to back catches of home runs on the fly. They were hit in the same general area, and only about 30 seconds apart. I have no idea who hit them.
I caught ball #6 on the fly in a completely empty row B. As I made the catch, some old guy made a feeble attempt at the ball, and crashed into me. Like a pillar, I didn’t budge. Since he went down fairly hard, I asked him if he was ok – and he was.
The second home run was hit soon after, and I had an entire empty row to my right, so I took off quickly and ran about 50 feet to my right to snag ball #7. I made the catch in front of a group of teenagers. Feeling they had been robbed, having seen me catch the other home run seconds before, and feeling anger at the Brewers gear I was sporting, they booed me mercilessly for about 20 seconds.
I just looked at them and smiled.
I had to leave at 6PM to attend a varsity head coaches meeting, that didn’t end until 9PM. My phone had very limited service, so I wasn’t able to get updates on the game.
I was squirming in my chair more than John Russell does when Matt Capps enters the game in a save situation.
Game: 7 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 288 balls (146 hit, 89 thrown, 53 device)
Games: 60 games (6 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.80 balls per game
Career: 454 balls
Streak: 75 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.