Opening Day brings a new hope for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Every team starts fresh from scratch. Everyone is tied for first place.
It’s the same with us ballhawks. There’s a website, mygameballs.com, where everyone starts even at zero to begin the season.
Last year on Opening Day, I snagged 13 balls. The season ticket holder time came in handy, as I snagged 8 balls by 11:30. You can read about that day here.
However, the minutes ticked away, and 11:00 came and went. No security guards ever showed to unlock the gates or check bags. Eventually, some guy appeared and talked to the ticket scanners. The message he delivered was that the gate would open at 11:30 AM.
The line to get in had already swelled and split in two directions at the bridge.
Someone in charge had decided that there would be no season ticket holder time today. ALL GATES would open at 11:30 AM, so there would be a mass rush and the bleachers would fill up quickly.
I was really disappointed. To make matters worse, there was a relative of Manny Sanguillen’s who was allowed in the park before everyone else, and he went straight to the left field bleachers, so any balls that were in there, would be long gong.
When the gates opened and I ran in, the Phillies were already in the process of hitting. Noooo!
I ran up into the upper bleachers hoping that maybe there would be an Easter Egg hidden up there. When I did, I noticed a long fly ball head toward the left field wall. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak lined up to make the catch, but it fell short of the wall, hitting at the base of the wall and staying there. I quickly ran down and looked. The ball was directly below me. I quickly used the glove trick and reeled in my first ball of the day to get on the board. The whole glove trick took less than 10 seconds. I lowered it over the ball and pulled it right up. I was relieved because I knew that the day wouldn’t be completely ruined. Whenever any of us are facing a shut out it creates unnecessary anxiety that makes the whole ballhawking experience much less enjoyable.
Anyhow, the left field bleachers filled up fast. I only stayed there for the first group, and then headed over to right field, where it was drastically less crowded. Even though the stadium had been opened for 20 minutes, I still looked for Easter Eggs, and I found one:
The ball was hit yesterday by Garrett Jones. I made a mental note when I watched the ball hit the chain link fence, which basically killed all of the ball’s momentum. I watched from left field as the ball softly disappeared out of sight – it had either fallen behind the fence or in a seat. So, when I went to look, it was in the exact spot that I remembered. Sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to every little detail during BP.
This was my view for most of BP, as I stayed in right field, and tried for toss ups from Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Kyle Kendrick.
I failed to get them to throw me anything, but managed to snag a Laynce Nix homer. The ball was a mammoth fly, that I ran up and over a section to catch, but it was just beyond my reach. Luckily, it landed in a seat and plopped calmly and slowly out the bottom of the seat, where I simply picked it up.
After BP, I went and found my dad, who I attended this game with, and we went to Primanti brothers. The line was pretty long, so while he stood in line, I went to go get a First Pitch program and also to check out the Budweiser Bow Tie Bar, a new area built behind section 101.
Here’s the entrance:
Large fire pit warmers were located around the bar:
The bar has seven flat screen TVs:
And part of it faces the field:
Pretty nice. It displaces the Root Sports station, which moved a section closer toward home plate:
After the quick visit to the Bow Tie Bar, we made our way to our seats to eat our Primanti Brothers sandwiches:
And watch the introductions:
I didn’t try ballhawking- I just stayed in my seat for most of the game. I had a great view:
Near the end of the game, I ventured down to the main level to see Amy, who was working and this was the scene in left field:
Completely packed. The cross aisle was completely filled.
In fact, this was the largest ever crowd to ever take in a game at PNC Park. There were 39,585.
Lots of people came out to support their Buccos today.
Unfortunately, the Pirates laid an egg. They scored 0 runs. The first two batters, Alex Presley and Jose Tabata, had singles against Roy Halladay, and that was it. No other batter got a hitter after those two. Only two other batters reached base, by being hit by pitches. The Phillies won 1-0, as the Pirates start the season 0-1.
The Pirates have the hardest schedule in baseball. Look at their April and May schedule. They don’t play a team that had a losing record in 2011 until they face the Astros in mid May. All of the teams they play at the outset of the season were playoff teams or contenders last year. We just can’t catch a break.
Tomorrow, I’ll be up and early for a road trip and my second Home Opener in as many days.
We were back at Nationals Park for another game today.
Hopefully today would be a bit better day for me.
The weather was expected to be a bit warmer with no chance of rain.
Amy was back in charge of the camera, and did a fantastic job taking lots of pictures.
We were again first in line, so to pass the time, Nick and I played catch.
This time, we played catch on the street, so as not to get yelled at by security.
When the gates opened, we ran in to look for baseballs,
but there were none. I made my way over to center field and spotted a ball below, but there were security guards everywhere down there.
I thought about asking them to toss it up, but they were engaged in a conversation. I went and checked the gaps behind the walls, which were empty. When I came back that ball was gone.
Much like yesterday, my day got off to another really slow start. There was a lot of inactivity and waiting.
All I could do is look at Amy with a “this is going to well” look.
I noticed a few balls were landing in the seats in right field, so I hustled over to try and get in on some of the action.
Amy was right behind me to capture the action.
Once there I set up in the third row.
I didn’t have to wait too long as Laynce Nix launched a home run in my direction. I could tell that the ball was going to be a bit short, so I had to scale the row of seats in front of me to catch the ball just above the man in red’s black glove.
Here I am with my first ball of the day.
I headed over to left field with Nick, but it was too crowded, and I got shut out there despite several home runs landing here and there.
I headed back to right field to stay for a majority of the Braves batting practice.
After changing quickly on the concourse, I made my way to right field.
I began cutting through the second row when I ball appeared out of nowhere. Mike Minor randomly flipped a ball up from the warning track. I reacted and caught the ball for my second of the day. There wasn’t anyone else within a few feet of me, so I figured it really wasn’t intended for anyone in particular. Here I am with Mike Minor below:
Despite several Braves batting, I noticed a ball land in the gap in left center field. I decided to go over and glove trick it immediately.
Here I am setting up the glove trick:
I leaned on the glass railing for a moment and pretended to watch BP so as not to bring attention to myself from the security guards. I then lowered my glove over the ball:
And reeled it in.
That was my third ball of the day.
Upon returning to right field, I noticed another ball in the gap between the stands and scoreboard.
I glove tricked that ball too.
I’m was working with a new rubber band and it was working really well. I snagged both glove trick balls in one try.
The rest of batting practice was just a lot of standing around. You can tell by Nick’s body language how slow things were.
Near the end of batting practice, I went over to left field above the bullpen to scope out the balls in the bullpen.
While there, an unidentified Braves player tossed my ball #5.
Batting practice ended, and there were three balls that were gettable in the bullpen. I knew how security was, so I spoke with the usher in the section, “There’s a ball in the bullpen that I can get with my glove,” I said. “Is it ok if I get it?”
“Alright,” She replied, “Imma let you get it.”
I went to work and got the ball to stick in the glove on the first try. Weirdly, the same lady that just gave me permission, came and started yelling at me. “You can’t do that!”
“You just told me that I could get a ball from the bullpen.”
“No! You have to stop.”
“OK, the ball’s stuck in my glove, should I throw it back onto the field or can I keep it?”
She ignored me. So I stuck it in my pocket and let. It was the sixth one of the day.
That would be it for batting practice.
We left the stadium after BP to head back to Pittsburgh.
We headed back to pictures and Amy was still snapping away.
We left sunny 65 degree weather for dreariness.
Here are the baseballs I snagged today:
And the sweet spots:
Season: 9 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device, 0 found)
Games: 2 games
Average: 4.50 balls per game
Career: 1,131 balls