I was expecting a low output today. I wasn’t able to get to the park until almost 5, and I also had to leave during batting practice to take care of a prior commitment.
When I arrived, my friend Jim saved me a couple minutes by allowing me to join him and Nick at the front of the line.
As I was showing my season ticket ID to get into batting practice early, I noticed a ball bounce into section 138, the section closest to the bullpen. I ran in and located it, putting me on the board quickly.
Seconds later, the Pirates ran off the field, ending batting practice. They literally ended BP as we were entering the bleachers. Unacceptable.
The Dodgers weren’t ready to start yet, so we had to wait for them to throw and stretch their arms out. After about ten minutes of wasted time, the Dodgers started to hit.
I would get my second and third balls with my glove trick. Fellow ballhawk Jim gets an assist on both balls for pointing them out to me, as they were near the bullpen entrance, and I was stationed about three sections away.
Here’s the area of detail, snapped after the snags:
I would go on to snag my fourth and final ball of the day off the bat of Russell Martin. He hit a home run off of a bleacher in section 138 that rolled down a few rows to me.
I was hoping that Manny Ramirez would put some balls into the seats, but he didn’t. He hit one home run ball, snagged by fellow Ballhawk League member Nick Pelescak.
I had set up a video camera hoping to capture a few home run catches during the Dodgers second round, which included Manny and Matt Kemp.
Game: 4 balls (2 hit, 2 device)
Season: 9 balls (5 hit, 0 thrown, 4 device)
Games: 2 game
Average: 4.50 balls per game
Career: 587 balls
Streak: 98 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Spent@Game: $7.50 ($5 Ticket, $2 Transportation, $0.50 Parking)
Spent in 2010: $21.50 ($10 Tickets, $4 Transportation, $2.50 Parking, $5 Food)
Today’s game may be my final batting practice of the season – I may only attend one more game, and it’s a day game after a night game. You know what that means…
Meanwhile, I had been watching the weather, and decided that I would not attend tomorrows (Saturday’s) game. It is a Skyblast date, and the chance of rain is 100%. That means no batting practice, large crowds, and an all around tougher time snagging balls. I would need to have a huge day – I wanted reach the 400 balls snagged in one year benchmark.
Chaos had broken out in Pittsburgh the night before due to the G20 summit. I was hoping that this would scare people away from coming out early to batting practice – even if the Pirates were giving away Bobbleheads to entice folks to watch a potential 100 loss team.
I was second in line at PNC Park, arriving an hour and a half early. Helicopters hovered over my head, regiments of soldiers passed on foot patrol
and there was even the cavalry passing by.
We were standing directly next to each other. Manny turned and lofted the ball at us. It was no contest. I had longer arms, and made the catch about a foot in front of the other guys glove. It was ball #6. I also think it may have been the only ball that Manny threw into the crowd in his time in left field.
Another few minutes passed by, and two
more balls rolled to the wall. I reeled up ball #7 with the glove trick, and did the same with ball #8. Randy Wolf was coming over to pick up ball #8, but realized that I had it covered with the glove trick, and let it go, turning back to left field.
The ballpark had only been opened for 25 minutes, and I had already snagged 8 balls. Could I challenge the Jabs/Pelescak PNC Park record of 14?
No, as things slowed way, way down. The Dodgers’ batting practice approach reminded me of the Cardinals’ in that the hit many balls to the opposite field.
I was getting frustrated. The place looked like this around 5:30:
Which is nice, but there were still some folks clogging up rows, making me readjust my routes to any ball that was potentially coming into the stands.
These people got in my way a few times:
And this guy was the worse, because he stayed in virtually the same spot, but kept moving up or down one row, so I had to keep checking on his location.
I try to always familiarize myself with my surroundings almost before every BP pitch so I don’t crash into anyone or get blocked off from going for a ball.
In the last group, Ronny Belliard lofted a high fly ball that bounced on the warning track. I moved over a section and positioned myself perfectly to catch the high bounce. It was ball #9.
I only needed one more ball to complete my quest to get 400 balls. I had began the 2009 season with a goal of 300, but after reaching that last month on August 20th, I had made 400 a new goal for the season, to keep me motivated for the last five weeks of the season.
It was about 6:05ish, and batting practice was about to end in a few minutes. I was then faced with a tough decision. Stay in left field, which looked like this at 6:00….
or head over to center field to try and glove trick a ball that had rolled to the wall.
I decided to go give the ball a try. I rigged up the glove trick on the way over to center field, and non-chalantly made my way down to the front row. (I didn’t want to draw attention from the ushers by sprinting in there).
I looked around at the Dodgers players. No one was in a hurry to come get the ball, which was directly below me at the base of the wall.
With that in mind, I lowered my glove down over the ball, and reeled in ball #10.
Ball #300 and #400 of 2009 had both come via the glove trick. Snagging 400 balls in a season is quite an accomplishment. I believe only Zack Hample, myself, and probably the Happy Youngster (who will likely do it soon) have snagged 400 or more regular season balls in one season.
After snagging the ball, I asked my friend Nick (who is closing in on 300 balls in one season) to snap my picture.
I then got 25 extra tickets scanned, and lugged the bobbleheads back to my car. Noticing a large crowd waiting to get in the stadium (due to all the extra security measures), I decided to leave and not stay for the game.
If I end the season on an even 400, that would be a pretty cool thing anyway.
Game: 10 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown, 5 device)
Season: 400 balls (211 hit, 119 thrown, 70 device)
Games: 79 games (9 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.06 balls per game
Career: 566 balls
Streak: 94 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
The Dodgers do not hit many home runs in batting practice. They are also especially stingy when it comes to tossing balls into the stands. Maybe it’s the pressure of the playoff race, but they ignored every polite request that I made for a ball.
I got ball #1 of the day completely by accident. Since this was a Wednesday game, there weren’t many people at batting practice. About 5 minutes in, a Pirate hit a long home run that ended up going onto the concourse behind the bleachers. I ran over a section but the ball sailed 20 feet over my head. As I got to the spot, I slightly twisted my ankle on something. I looked down, and there was ball #1, just sitting there on the concrete. My first reaction was that maybe someone had dropped it, but there was no one even in the section. The ball must have been hit prior to the gates opening, and none of the ushers bothered picking it up. You’ll see in the picture at the end of this blog that it has a big scuff mark above Rawlings from hitting on the concrete.
When it came time for the Dodgers to hit, Manny came out to left field to shag fly balls. Some fans, including myself, tried to get his attention, but he didn’t so much as even glance over. Most left fielders, when shagging fly balls, will throw to second base after catching the ball. Manny however, kept throwing his balls to home plate, where they would roll in and interfere with the batter that was taking batting practice. I thought it was pretty funny, but that’s just Manny being Manny.
I only caught one ball during the Dodgers portion of batting practice. I think Casey Blake hit it, but I’m not positive. Anyway, when it was hit, I drifted to my right and made the easy catch. The ball looked brand new! Ball #2 was my final one of the day.
By the way, legendary ball hawk, Jim Saylor caught Adam LaRoche’s first home run of the night. He’s in the white shirt and dives onto the ground to get the ball. He has caught more home run balls in PNC Park history than anyone else. Click HERE for the video.
Game: 2 balls
Season: 119 balls
Career: 157 balls
Hit List: 157 ties me with Ricky Otero for #4,013th place all time
Attendance: 11,883 (31% full)