Today was Amy and my 8 month anniversary, and we packed in a full day’s worth of activities. We started by going around to garage sales and buying lots of clothes for our daughter. There were some pretty nice things that we found that looked ‘like-new.’
Today was also Neil Walker bobblehead day, so a sellout crowd of 38,000 would be on hand. Therefore, it was important to get on the board early. When I ran into the left field bleachers, I found ball #1 laying in the front row in this area.
Nick had the lead, but we both took a wrong route to the ball. Since it wasn’t at the bottom of the rotunda, I figured it was on the rotunda. I raced up and was correct. It was sitting on the rotunda, waiting to be claimed. Amy got this shot of us returning from the chase.
My third ball of the day was a clean catch in the front row of section 134. I had to reach out over the wall and make the catch as there was some pressure put on me from the side. I reached out and swiped at the ball and luckily made the catch.
It was a particular sunny day, and I lost two balls in the sun. One would’ve been an easy grab, and it zipped by my head. The other I would’ve made on a cloudy day. That’s one of the negatives of PNC Park. Left field is the sun field, so folks in left get blinded by the sun, especially on fly balls.
Check out the crowd:
That’s the downfall of PNC Park’s bleachers. There’s not much room when it gets crowded. There’s about six rows in the bleachers, and they get packed, severaly limiting a ballhawk’s range.
I did get ball #4 with the glove trick in left field before heading over to center field.
The guy in the red shirt, who’s usually aggressive, backed off and let me make the catch. I appreciated it, as I probably would’ve missed it had he tried for it. It was a ball I had to reach high and to my left to catch, as it was slicing back towards right field.
My seventh and final ball came at the conclusion of BP. The Tigers left a ball on the warning track in left field, so I went over and glove tricked it for my seventh ball of the day.
After BP, I went to turn in 54 tickets for Neil Walker bobbleheads. I traded in a bunch of my season tickets so I could turn a profit on the bobbleheads. I made the mistake of pulling out the tickets and counting how many I had. As soon as I did, I was surrounded by people waving twenty dollar bills at me, offering to buy my tickets. The game was sold out, so there was nothing left at the box office. I relented and sold twenty of the tickets within 5 minutes. So, I went back to my car with a pocket overflowing with cash and 34 bobbleheads. Amy and I headed home to spend the rest of the evening baseball free.
Game: 7 balls (3 hit, 3 device, 1 found)
Season: 150 balls (59 hit, 35 thrown, 33 device, 22 found)
Games: 24 games
Average: 6.25 balls per game
Career: 1,272 balls
After leaving PNC Park around 1:25, I made it to Progressive Field in Cleveland, and was in line at 3:32. I was second in line. This would be my second game of the day.
When I ran in, I didn’t find any easter eggs on the ground. I paced up and down each aisle and did manage to find ball #1 and ball #2 laying in seats. The second ball was an International League (AAA) ball – which the Tigers are known to use in lieu of major league baseballs. I was pretty happy because I didn’t have any of these yet this year. After snagging 300 some regular major league baseballs this season, any variation is a welcomed departure from the mean.
Within the span of a minute, I lost out on three home run balls in center field. All three balls bounced on this six foot wide concrete platform seperating the outfield wall from the seats:
The balls took huge hops and landed about 15 rows back, and I wasn’t able to get to any of them in time.
Ball #3 was thrown by an Indians pitcher (standing on the left of the two pitchers).
I had competition from behind, with two guys trying to reach other the seats to grab the ball. I got to the ball a split second before them, snatching it with my bare hand. Guess what? Another Metrodome commemorative!
Things then slowed way down for me. I wouldn’t get another ball for the next half hour.
I watched Miguel Cabrera pepper the left field bleachers with home run balls. There was only one usher there picking them all up, and he had his work cut out for him.
One of Cabrera’s homers nearly hit th
e scoreboard. It landed in the very top row of the bleachers (as marked by the red X in the picture below.)
At 6:00, I ran over to those left field bleachers to look for some easter eggs that the usher potentially may have missed. I searched the rows at the bottom, and watched as one teenager found one. I then ran up towards the top of the bleachers, and found this waiting for me, three rows from the top.
Yes, another Metrodome ball – my fifth commemorative of the day, and ball #9.
Things in left field weren’t going well, so I made my way back over to right field as the final lefties were finishing up.
Curtis Granderson ( i think – a black left handed batter ) – hit a deep home run to my left in right field. Again, it was going to be about two sections over, so I put my head down and ran over to where I judged it was going to land. I ended up making a really nice catch on the run for ball #10 of the day. I got a nice hand from the few people that were still in right field watching batting practice. It was also my fifth consecutive Metrodome ball snagged, and my sixth commemorative of the day.
Two pitches later, Granderson hit another home run to right field. This ball was high in the air, and I had plenty of time to weave and correct my route so I’d be in the right spot. I caught the ball with a basket style catch for ball #11. It was the last hit of BP, as the Tigers then ran off the field. I quickly snapped this picture right after batting practice ended to show all the room I had.
I love weekday batting practices at Progressive Field.
I left after batting practice, happy that after snagging 14 yesterday, I had snagged 15 today (albeit over 2 games). It was a new “one-day” record for me.
On my way out of the stadium, I had a few reminders from the trees that fall was here, and baseball season was almost over.
Farewell Progressive Field – See you next year
Game: 11 balls (8 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 390 balls (208 hit, 117 thrown, 65 device)
Games: 78 games (9 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.00 balls per game
Career: 556 balls
Streak: 93 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Race for 400 in 2009: Need 10 in 3 games, 3.33 per game
Today was game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals featuring the Penguins vs the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, all the fans that weren’t able to get tickets to the game in Detroit seemingly decided to take the the 5 hour trip to see this baseball game. There were Detroit fans everywhere. Many of them were probably making the pilgrimage to see PNC Park for the first time, since its an interleague game, its not often that the Tigers come to Pittsburgh.
If today was a test of my ballhawking abilities, I would’ve failed. Despite being the first one into the bleacher area, I didn’t notice an Easter Egg that was right in front of my friggin face, I had two home run balls pop out of my glove, and I half heartedly went after a ball that ended up bouncing over the fence and skipped past my glove by about two feet. Had I actually gone for the ball, it would’ve been an easy catch. 4 balls – botched.
I did get one ball during the Pirates portion of batting practice. Craig Monroe hit a home run to my left that I could tell was going to be way over my head. I ran to my right and up the stairs under the bleachers. The ball bounced and hit off the concourse roof and settled near a garbage can. I reached down and grabbed ball #1.
Ball #2 came from an unknown Tigers batter. It was a deep fly ball that bounced on the warning track and right into my glove 4 rows back. I received a couple awkward high fives from Detroit fans, “That’s how we roll in Detroit,” some guy said. He must have thought I was from Detroit on account of my Tigers hat and shirt.
After misplaying two balls, I caught a Miguel Cabrera home run on the fly in the second row of section 136. I made sure that I squeezed ball #3 so it wouldn’t pop out.
That was all I got during batting practice. It was becoming annoying crowded.
To make matters worse, Andy Van Slyke was messing around the entire batting practice with the pitchers. He was hitting deep fly balls to the wall so that the pitchers could leap and make home run robbing catches. He must’ve hit 20 balls into the crowd. I’ve never seen anything so stupid and dangerous. Edwin Jackson, Joel Zumaya, and Dontrelle Willis were all taking turns risking their bodies and careers by jumping against the fence and robbing these home runs.
I tried to catch one for about 5 minutes, but I was too annoyed because it was real crowded around the area that Van Slyke was hitting to (left center field, near the bullpen). I was waiting for one of the pitchers to twist an ankle.
It was distracting because it was almost as if two batting practices were occurring simultaneously.
After batting practice ended, I didn’t get another ball until the 4th inning.
I sat on the right field wall for the first four innings.
Game: 4 Balls (3 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 161 Balls (72 hit, 66 thrown, 24 device)
Games: 32 games (4 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 5.03 Balls per Game
Career: 327 Balls
With the Pirates on the road for a full week, I decided to add two games at Progressive Field. I checked the weather today and since the forecast was favorable, I hopped in my car and took the 2:15 drive to Cleveland.
Since it was Saturday, I had some things working against me:
1) Gates don’t open until 5:30 on weekends
2) Cliff Lee bobblehead day
3) The skies darkened up and it looked like it was going to storm.
When I arrived at Progressive Field around 4, the cage was set up, but I was afraid BP would be wiped out due to the menacing dark clouds. (The lights were on at the stadium).
I walked to the box office and bought the cheapest ticket I could, $9. I then made my way back to the right field gate. It was about 4:15, and a large crowd was gathering. I was about 15th in line. It turns out that there were hundreds of people there for faith night. They were going to hear testimony from Indians player Jamey Carroll.
Imagine my surprise when a supervisor announced that they would be opening the gates an hour early at 4:30! Thank you Jesus!
And stood in line for 10 minutes to buy a cheeseburger combo meal for $9.25.
When the game started I first sat by the foul pole in right field.
But eventually moved to the left field home run porch. Notice all of the fans are standing at the fence.
If a home run were hit, they would have a slim chance of catching it. I stood by the garbage cans, awaiting a home run that would never come.
The Tigers won the game 4-0.
A look at today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 5 Balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 89 Balls (35 hit, 44 thrown, 10 device)
Games: 17 Games (14 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.24 balls per game
Career: 255 Balls