Today started in the same place as yesterday. I stood about a foot from the river’s edge and waited for balls to sail onto the outer concourse of PNC Park, and bounce towards the river. Two other ballhawks, Nick and Bryan Pelescak, joined in the opportunity. Yesterday, one ball came out.
Today, there would also be just one ball that would exit the stadium.
I heard a crackling of branches to my left, and quickly looked to see a ball rolling towards the river. Bryan was the closest to the spot, but wasn’t able to corral the ball before it rolled off of the walkway and into the Allegheny River.
Game: 5 balls (5 hit)
Season: 293 balls (151 hit, 89 thrown, 53 device)
Games: 61 games (6 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.80 balls per game
Career: 459 balls
Streak: 76 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
The Pirates were back in town today, facing the hated Brew-Crew.
This was my view from 4:15-4:55.
My friend Nick and I noticed a ballhawk running by who stands on the Riverwalk on a daily basis, waiting for home runs. Since he does it regularly, he must have at least some luck out there. (The guy stays out there the entire BP, even after the gates open). So, with nothing better to do, we decided to join him.
There was indeed one ball that came out in the time we were there. It bounced off of the concourse behind section 140, and went through the trees towards the river. The guy ran over and made a nice backhanded pick of the ball, just before it skipped into the Allegheny River.
Ballhawking on the Riverwalk is tough. You have to be very patient, and extemely focused. If you look away for a minute, or listen to a passerby’s comments, you’ll be distracted and miss a possible opportunity.
At one point, a photographer walked by and asked me what I was doing. I told him that batting practice was going on, and we were waiting for a ball to come out. He the proceeded to take pictures of the three of us ballhawks for the next fifteen minutes, from all angles. He never asked permission, or told us if he was affiliated with any newspaper. (I assumed he was with the Post Gazette or Tribune Review) In the picture below, you can see him sitting on the ground, snapping photos of Nick Pelescak.
He threw me ball #3. (It probably helped that I was the only fan in Brewers gear for the first 30 minutes).
One guy, who watched me get those balls tossed, made a few comments about how I “have all these shirts in the back of my car.” I couldn’t tell if he was trying to make fun of me, or not, but he went on to say the same line about five more times throughout the day to people around him.
I got ball #4 via the glove trick in left field. I struggled with this one, probably taking almost two minutes to reel it in. I had to first knock it closer, and then the rubber band wasn’t quite right. I had to adjust it several times. As the rubber band gets used, it becomes more stretchy, and needs adjusted differently. I was almost foiled by Brewers coach Joe Crawford. When I finally got the ball to stick in the glove, Crawford hurled his glove from about forty feet away, in an attempt to knock the ball out of my glove. Luckily, I had just begun to pull the ball up, and it narrowly missed it. He came over to get his glove, and had a huge smile on his face. “This wall is too low here. Its too easy for you guys to do that.”
A little while later, I caught ball #5 on the fly. It was a can of corn. However, Jody Gerut watched me make the catch, and immediately started screaming at me from left field. “That’s TWO for you now. Do the right thing!” I nodded. He screamed about three more times, “Do the right thing, Do the right thing, Do the right thing.” At this point several Brewers were staring at me, and Gerut pointed me out to them, probably telling them that he had just tossed me a ball moments earlier.
I quickly went into my backpack and took out one of my decoy balls. (Balls that I have that I didn’t personally snag and don’t count in my stats or my collection. These are MLB balls that friends have given to me in exchange for tickets).
I held up the decoy ball for Gerut to see and tossed it to the nearest kid with a glove. He gave me a thumbs up. I yelled to him, “That’s a Pirate ball from earlier.” I wanted him to keep the impression that I was a huge Brewers fan and wanted to keep just the Brewers baseballs.
I spent a few minutes in center field and chickened out on a very glove trickable ball. The nice ushers weren’t in center field today, and I didn’t feel l
ike getting yelled at. Plus, I had struggled mightly with ball #4, and didn’t want to go through that again.
After Claudio Vargas picked up the ball that I should’ve glove tricked and tossed it to a kid, I headed back to left field.
There, I made almost back to back catches of home runs on the fly. They were hit in the same general area, and only about 30 seconds apart. I have no idea who hit them.
I caught ball #6 on the fly in a completely empty row B. As I made the catch, some old guy made a feeble attempt at the ball, and crashed into me. Like a pillar, I didn’t budge. Since he went down fairly hard, I asked him if he was ok – and he was.
The second home run was hit soon after, and I had an entire empty row to my right, so I took off quickly and ran about 50 feet to my right to snag ball #7. I made the catch in front of a group of teenagers. Feeling they had been robbed, having seen me catch the other home run seconds before, and feeling anger at the Brewers gear I was sporting, they booed me mercilessly for about 20 seconds.
I just looked at them and smiled.
I had to leave at 6PM to attend a varsity head coaches meeting, that didn’t end until 9PM. My phone had very limited service, so I wasn’t able to get updates on the game.
I was squirming in my chair more than John Russell does when Matt Capps enters the game in a save situation.
Game: 7 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 288 balls (146 hit, 89 thrown, 53 device)
Games: 60 games (6 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.80 balls per game
Career: 454 balls
Streak: 75 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
There was some rain forecast for today, but when I arrived at the ballpark at 3:55, the sun was shining, and there were only a few measly clouds in the sky.
While standing in line, I noticed a Brewers fan who randomly had a MLB baseball. He didn’t have a glove or a bag or anything. He had just walked up from the Riverwalk area. Had he just gotten a ball out by the river? Possibly.
Rather than standing there, I decided to head down to the Allegheny River and see if I could get on the board before the gates even opened. There is some tall grass landscaping on a slope that leads down to a 20 foot wide walkway which borders the river. Occasionally balls will get stuck in there that get hit out of the stadium or bounce on the stadium. I looked, but found nothing.
I stood outside the stadium until 4:50, when I returned to line. There was only one ball that I saw that had a realistic chance. I caught it out of the corner of my eye and watched it hit the top of the Clemente wall and stay in the ballpark. Like clockwork, within a minute, an usher appeared and picked up the ball.
When I returned to the line at 4:50, it began to drizzle. Great. Just great.
The drizzle was persistant, and was rather annoying. I was worried that the groundscrew would put the tarp on the field and batting practice would be canceled. Luckily, this wasn’t the case. The rain was light enough that it allowed BP to continue.
I got ball #1 of the day from Joel Hanrahan. He fielded a ball, and didn’t throw it back towards the infield, so I stood in the front row with my glove up for about a minute. He finally decided he didn’t want the ball anymore, and fired it at me. It was a little high and away, but I was on the board.
I got ball #2 from Mike Defelice. I remembered Shawn from Milwaukee giving me the tip of calling him Deefer. It worked.
There wasn’t a ton of home runs hit. And its a shame too, because there weren’t many people there during the first 30 minutes of season ticket holder time only.
Game: 3 balls (1 hit, 2 thrown)
Season: 238 balls (125 hit, 78 thrown, 38 device)
Games: 49 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.86 balls per game
Career: 404 balls
Attendance: 11,471 (very April/May’ish attendance figure)
I got to the ballpark an hour early to ensure that I would be at the front of the line.
The ball was in a little divit, so it took about 3-5 minutes of jostling the ball around until I finally had ball #7 in my grasp. The ball had “Expect to Win,” written on it.
I received my final ball, ball #8, of the day off of the bat of Mat Gamel. He hit a high fly ball to right center that I camped out underneath and made an easy catch. This particular ball had the phrase, “Best Catch Ever,” written on it. It made me smile. I was thinking to myself, “Yea, that was a pretty nice catch.”
I like how the Brewers write these crazy things on their baseballs. It’s unique. It’s different.
When the game began, I went over to the Home Run Porch in left field. The closest any ball came was a Ryan Garko foul
ball that traveled about 350 feet. I was about 25 feet away from it and lost a foot race to the spot.
I left about half way through the game.
The sweet spots:
Game: 8 Balls (7 hit, 1 device)
Season: 188 Balls (94 hit, 67 thrown, 27 device)
Games: 36 Games (4 without BP)
Average: 5.22 Balls per Game
Career: 354 Balls
Since the Pirates are out of town for a week, I decided to hit the road. I made the 2 hour trip north to Cleveland. I got to the stadium around 4PM, bought a ticket, and was ninth in line.
When the gates opened, I sprinted to the right field seats, hoping to find an Easter Egg. I’d noticed that several other people ahead of me ran to the seats also. Instead of going directly into the seats, I ran down the concourse towards the visiting team’s bullpen, figuring that all Easter Eggs would already be claimed in center field by those ahead of me. The move paid off. I spotted ball #1 laying in the front row, and quickly ran to it and was on the board.
I did manage to snag ball #2 off of the bat of Victor Martinez. He hit a home run that sailed about 4 or 5 rows over my head. I ran back and grabbed the ball, as two other people also were grasping for it. I made sure to grab this ball off of the concrete with my bare hand.
Ball #3 also came from the Indians. A right handed batter hit a fly ball that bounced on the warning track and over the fence. I quickly moved about five feet to my left and made the catch over some lady’s head. She was sitting down, without a glove, and was mad that she didn’t get the ball. Also, she didn’t even see the ball until after I caught it. “Ohhhh, yoooouuuuuu…” she said.
That was it from the Indians. The Brewers came out to hit. Despite being over 7 hours away from Cleveland, a lot of their fans made the trip.
Batting practice was more crowded than usual.
Game: 4 Balls (3 hit, 1 device)
Season: 180 Balls (87 hit, 67 thrown, 26 device)
Games: 35 Games (4 without BP)
Average: 5.14 Balls per Game
Career: 346 Balls
I attended today’s game with my wife. I had to wait for her to get home for work, so we didn’t get to the stadium until 4:55 PM, just in time before the 5 PM gate opening.
Usually I get 1 ball during the Pirates portion during the week (they only hit for about 10-15 more minutes after the gates open). Today, though, I had 4 balls by 5:04. I’ve never gotten off to a start like that in my life.
Ball #1 was tossed from Nyjer Morgan.
Game: 10 balls (4 hit, 4 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 84 balls (32 hit, 43 thrown, 9 device)
Games: 16 games (13 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.25 balls per game
Career: 250 balls
Throughout the day, I thought for sure that batting practice would be canceled. It was raining this morning when I left for work. Raining when I went to lunch. Raining when I left work. Drizzling when I left for the game. So, imagine my surprise when I walked past the left field gates and saw the screens and cage being set up. (The Pirates needed the extra BP after not hitting a home run in more than a week and getting shut out yesterday).
Upon entering the stadium, there was one Easter Egg ball, but another ballhawk got to it first. The Pirates portion of batting practice was slow for me. I got ball #1 when Jason Jaramillo tossed me a baseball before the Pirates finished up at 5:15. Jaramillo was very gracious to all three regular ballhawks in attendance, hooking us each up with a ball.
A few action shows:
Paul Maholm deals:
Yovani Gallardo to Nyjer Morgan:
Gallardo throws a pitch:
After Matt Capps blew the save and gave up 4 runs in the 9th, I went to the Pirates dugout. (the Pirates lost their SIXTEENTH game in a row to the Brewers).
I usually get shut out at the dugout, having only received one ball there this year before today. The umpire, Bob Davidson came off the field and tossed me a really nice rubbed up game ball. Ball #7.
Not a bad night after all.
Here’s today’s balls:
And the sweet spots: (the 4th ball from the pitcher in center had MVP written on it)
The umpire ball is at the front and center.
Game: 7 balls (2 hit, 5 thrown)
Season: 74 balls (28 hit, 39 thrown, 7 device)
Games: 15 games (12 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 4.93 balls per game
Career: 240 balls