We were back at Piratefest on Sunday for the third and final day of the three day weekend baseball event. The Pirates had sent me six tickets, so I sold two, used two on Friday, and saved the last two for today.
Before heading to Piratefest, I was treated to breakfast at a restaurant named DeLuca’s in the Strip District.
I had never been to DeLuca’s let alone the strip district, so this was a nice little adventure for me. DeLuca’s proclaims to have the ‘Best Breakfast in Town,’ and the large line that was waiting outside in the cold drizzle.
We waited for about twenty minutes before getting into the small, packed restaurant. One of the restaurant’s claim to fame is being featured on the Man vs Food series.
We had pancakes…
Chocolate strawberry pancakes for her:
And blueberry pancakes for me:
I also had a side of sweet sausage, which tasted much better than it looked.
The food was great, and it filled me up until 5 PM. I wasn’t crazy about the interior Steeler decorating, especially after being hassled at every corner by street vendors selling Steeler pennants and buttons. I’m looking forward to the Super Bowl being over so this town settles down.
When we got to the David L Lawrence Convention Center around 11:40, twenty minutes before the doors were to open, we were greeted by a monstrous line that snaked around and to the back of the convention center.
It took us about 10 minutes after the gates opened to finally get into Piratefest.
When we entered, we headed over to the MVP Zone to get autographs from Paul Maholm and Ross Ohlendorf.
I had Ross sign my calendar since he signed a ball for me yesterday. Paul Maholm also signed a ball. Interestingly, he dropped the number 28 from his signature (the other 3 signatures on balls I have from Paul have a 28) – perhaps he expects to be traded in the coming months. He is in the final year of a contract, although the Pirates hold an option for 2012, which most certainly will be turned down since its for $9.75 million.
Later in the MVP Zone (which is for Season Ticket Holders only) we had Jose Tabata sign a baseball,
along with 1991 National League Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek.
Drabek was probably my second favorite Pirate of the 1990-1992 teams, with Andy Van Slyke being the first.
The MVP Zone is one of the nice perks of being a season ticket holder. Season Ticket Holders can get autographs there without waiting an average of 90 minutes on the other side of the Convention Center. The same players come over to the MVP Zone throughout the day either before or after they are done signing for the general public.
Good (Season Ticket Holder autograph lines):
Bad (everyone else):
The other autograph that I got today was Andrew McCutchen. We were allowed two autographs per person, so I had him sign a baseball and a Canvas Photo Wrap that I had won earlier in the day.
We didn’t play many games because the lines were ridiculously long. I didn’t really see the point of standing in line for 30 minutes to spin a wheel and win some give away stuff that I already have at home.
We caught some of the entertainment at the Piratefest stage:
There was Deal or No Deal:
More Minute to Win It, this time with Paul Maholm:
and Family Feud with the “Maholm Family” pitted against the “Morton Family.”
It was Paul Maholm vs Charlie Morton, and each player had 3 other fans assigned to his ‘family.’ The questions were related to the Pirates or Pittsburgh, and season ticket holders were those surveyed to provide the results for the game.
Here’s a video of a round of it:
That was basically it for the day. Got a few autographs, walked around, played a couple games at the beginning of the day before the crowd swelled, and watched some games at the Piratefest stage.
The Pirates set an all time record for the Piratefest weekend, drawing 16,839 fans, which was an increase of 1,400 over last year. The thing is, this is my fifth year as a season ticket holder, and every other year, I only received two free tickets to Piratefest. This year, I was given six. I saw some fans giving away their passes at the door. Therefore, I believe that the numbers are ‘juiced’ by the flood of free tickets that were distributed to the fan base. Yes, there’s some reason to be excited, but a 105 loss team doesn’t just draw an all time record to its Fanfest. Does anyone expect the Pirates to even approach their 2001 attendance home figure of 33,000 per game? No.
The real test of how excited this town really is about Pirates baseball will be the home attendance. We’ll see how many folks show up. By the way, the Pirates raised ticket prices for the first time in nine years this week. Season Ticket and advance purchased tickets will stay the same, but tickets purchased on the day of the game will be about an average of $3 more.
I’m hoping that attendance stays low, at least for batting practice, so it makes collecting baseballs easier, but we’ll see.
Spring Training is just around the corner. Get ready.
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.
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)
Recently, the Pirates invited their season ticket holders to come and take batting practice on the field at PNC Park.
This was the second year that the Pirates have done this, and the second year that I would participate. If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you may remember this entry from last year.
I had asked my dad if he’d like to go hit again, but he indicated that he wasn’t interested. So, I decided to ask Zack Hample, winner of the ballhawk league in 2009, if he’d like to come to PNC Park as my guest. Hample enthusiastically obliged, and brought along his mother and his friend Brandon.
Zack, two fellow ballhawks and friends, Nick and Bryan Pelescak, and I met at the stadium at 9AM. We promptly entered through the right field player’s garage door and walked down towards the field.
This was the view at the end of the tunnel.
And that, was that.
See you April 5th 2010, PNC Park.
I knew today would be a tough day snagging wise from the start. If you recall reading my entry from the Pirates Caravan, I won an opportunity to change 3rd base during the game and be recognized as the fan of the game.
When I received my letter from the Pirates with information, it stated that I needed to be in the security office by 5:30PM to check in, or I would jeopardize the opportunity to change 3rd base. This means that I would have less than a half hour to snag.
My wife and I arrived at the stadium and were near the end of the line to get in. When we did get into the stadium, the minutes ticked away without me snagging anything.
I got nothing from the Pirates.
It was about 5:20 and I still had no balls. Was I going to get shut out for the first time since August of 2008?
Luckily, no. All of the Cardinals pitchers were still warming up in right field when the Cardinals began hitting.
We waited on the field for about 50 minutes before I was introduced. Some movie “star” named David Conrad was to throw out the first pitch. He stood next to us on the field the entire time, but we didn’t talk. Only one person from the crowd recognized him and asked him for a picture. He is in the cast of the Ghost Whisperer on CBS, and also had a small roll in Wedding Crashers.
We then had to LEAVE the stadium, and re-enter through the gates to go to our seats. Why they wouldn’t let us take the elevator up to the main concourse, I don’t know. So, I used 4 tickets for the 2 of us (I used 2 of my season tickets for the first 30 minutes so I could snag a ball).
We reported to guest services in the 6th inning and were taken back down into the tunnel, where I joined the grounds crew. No one really said much to me. One guy said, “Here’s the base.” No instructions.
I went to third base, as Freddy Sanchez walked right past me and changed the base. It came right out, and was changed in a matter of seconds.
After changing the base, I was going to do a Rickey Henderson pose,
But decided I’d better just do a generic pose.
And that was it. We went back to our seats and watched the rest of the game. The Pirates won the game, and I was shut out at the dugout by the umpire.
Here’s the one ball I got:
Game: 1 Ball (1 device) (worst snagging day of the season for me)
Season: 108 balls (47 hit, 48 thrown, 13 device)
Games: 20 Games (17 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.4 balls per game
Career: 274 balls