It rained for most of the morning in Pittsburgh, in fact, it was still raining when I arrived at the ballpark at 11 AM. This could mean only one thing: no batting practice. I was faced with possibly being shut out for the first time since August 2008.
When the stadium opened the gates to the seating areas at 11:30, I went over to the left field foul line. The rain had subsided. Several bullpen pitchers from the Pirates were warming up. I placed myself behind John Grabow and Ross Ohlendorf and waited for an overthrow.
Directly to me. I didn’t even have to move.
Its not like he randomly tossed the ball up and I got into a scrum and stole the ball away from ticketed patrons. He usually picks out people. I caught the ball, waved thanks, turned and left the section. I could hear some snooty lady and her rotund husband getting on the usher. “He doesn’t have a ticket. He shouldn’t be allowed to do that. Don’t let him back in here. Check his ticket.” Blah blah blah.
I went over to left field for the fourth inning to try and get a warm up ball from Nyjer. I avoided the right field seats thanks to the afore mentioned rudest-usher-in-PNC-Park.
Left Field has a lot more sections and people, so I had very little chance. The ball went to a group of people near the foul pole.
Inning 5. I went back to center field. I stood at the far edge of Section 140, away from the snotty lady. I looked over and they were both staring directly at me. I stared right back at them. I should’ve walked over and offered their spoiled kid a ball. “Excuse me, would you like a ball? ….. Then bring a glove!” and walk away. That’s what I felt like doing, I was in such a bad mood.
I didn’t get the 5th inning ball because it was tossed to the second row. Predictably, the ball fell back onto the field. The same thing happened in the seventh inning. That’s why Nate prefers to throw the ball deep.
Anyway, the miserable family got on the usher again after the fifth inning because 3 of us ballhawks entered the section. The usher came over and told me that I wasn’t allowed to try for warm up balls anymore. He said come back and try tomorrow when there’s different people around. He told Nick and Bryan the same thing. If you’re wondering, here’s what those “folks” looked like:
(To be civil, I am editing this paragraph from what I originally wrote. I’ve taken out most of the colorful adjectives I originally had written.) Its the guy eating, his son, and the lady in the orange.
I could’ve tried in the seventh and ninth, but out of respect for the ushers, I went and sat behind the Reds dugout to see if I could get some foul balls. There are nice ushers at PNC Park, the ones in center field were just doing their job because the supervisor somehow got involved.
I didn’t get any foul balls, and I got shut out at the Reds dugout, so my day ended on a sour note.
To make it worse, the Pirates looked awful again, getting shut out. They haven’t hit a home run now in a week.
Adam LaRoche’s body language tells the whole story:
A few shots from the game:
Johnny Cueto deals to Nyjer Morgan:
Evan Meek (a big Dave Matthews Band fan):
Jesse Chavez (tossed me my first ball of the day:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 3 balls (3 thrown)
Season: 67 balls (26 hit, 34 thrown, 7 device)
Games: 14 games (11 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 4.79 balls per game
Career: 233 balls
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