Today was the last night game of the year, and Steve Miller Band was playing a concert after the game, so there would be a sell-out crowd on hand tonight. However, since there was some big cheerleading competition going on outside of PNC Park, there wasn’t a large crowd for most of batting practice.
I came into the game needing seven balls to get 418 and make my 2011 campaign a top 5 all time ballhawking season. Sure, it isn’t any close to the 544 I snagged last year, but its a small consolation prize.
Things got off really slowly for me, and I only snagged one ball within the first half hour of batting practice. That was a Pedro Alvarez opposite field home run that landed three rows back and took a giant hop into the upper bleachers, which I scrambled up the steps and grabbed.
My second ball of the day was glove tricked near the end of Pirates BP by the bullpen door.
Near the end of batting practice, things were going so poorly for me that I completely ditched left field and headed over into foul territory on the first base line as some Reds had come out to warm up.
There, I got who I think was Jared Burton to toss me ball #3 of the day after he finished his warm up tosses.
In the meantime, I noticed that Joey Votto was signing autographs near the dugout. I never ever go for autographs – I got only one other one this year – Ryan Vogelsong – but I figured that this was a former MVP and that his autograph was worth something. I got Votto to sign the sweet spot of a nice clean extra ball that I brought with me.
My fourth ball came a bit later as a pitcher airmailed Devin Mesoraco. I picked it up and offered it back, by holding it up, but they already had a second ball and picked up immediately where they left off as if they never even lost the ball, so I put it away in my bookbag.
My fifth ball came from Edinson Volquez, sort of. He caught the ball and rolled it towards the wall as if to get rid of it. I walked over and reached far over the railing and grabbed it. Then I held it up to see if Volquez or his teammates wanted it back. They could’ve cared less, as they were talking.
At 5:30, I searched the right field wall for Easter Eggs and found one.
It was ball #6 of the day, and #417 of the season, tying Nick Pelescak’s 2010 mark.
I then returned to left field and got a toss up from Dave Sappelt.
He retrieved a ball from the wall and then tossed it up into the crowd. I was in the second row, and it was right to me, just over the heads in the front row, much to the dismay of some 20 year old in the front row.
My 8th and final ball of the day was a clean catch of a Brandon Phillips home run ball. I caught that one in the second row, and it caused some controversy with another fan. The ball ticked off the fan in the McCutchen jersey’s glove and right into mine. It sounded like a foul tip being caught by the catcher.
Well, he thought I robbed him, even though I was a row behind him, and he kept giving me sour looks throughout the rest of BP, and talking to his friends and gesturing in my direction. Oh, and he’s not a little kid despite his tiny frame (its tough to tell from that pic)- he’s probably at least 20, and he already had a ball in his hand, so don’t feel bad.
Game: 8 balls (2 hit, 4 thrown, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 419 balls (175 hit, 92 thrown, 88 device, 57 found)
Games: 77 games
Average: 5.44 per game
Career: 1,541 balls
Today I just didn’t have it. It wasn’t my day.
My first ball of the day was Pedro Alvarez opposite field ground rule double that bounced over the fence. The ball took a weird hop, and I tried to barehand it. I dropped the ball, but recovered it at my feet. I got it here:
My second ball of the day was a home run catch off the bat of an unknown Astro. I caught it on the fly here. Standard catch.
My third and final ball of the day came at the very end of batting practice. Fernando Abad, seen here in a group of Astros pitchers,
field. The ball sailed over my head, landed on the steps, bounced off
the plexiglass to the upper bleachers and back towards the handicapped
seats. I reached over the railing separating the handicapped seats
from the aisle and caught the ball.
That was it for batting practice.
Game: 3 ball (2 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 81 balls (31 hit, 19 thrown, 21 device, 10 found)
Games: 13 games
Average: 6.23 balls per game
Career: 1,203 balls
Some of you have come across my blog today from the sensational youtube video that I took. If you’re looking for that game entry, click this LINK.
I uploaded that video last night before I went to bed, thinking that some of the regulars from my blog would get a kick out of it. When I woke up in the morning, the video had 533 views. I then left for the game. (When I returned from the game, it had 26,000)
Throughout the day, I received numerous emails. We’re talking about one every minute or so, from youtubers leaving comments. Around 10:30am, I received an interview request from KDKA-TV. A bit later, WPXI channel 11 contacted me.
My first instinct was to decline the interviews, but the producers had said that many people were bashing the police, and they were sure that the Pirates and Pittsburgh Police would like me to say something. I gave a TV interview to WPXI TV and KDKA on camera. I wasn’t crazy with the result. The interview was heavily edited and didn’t include any of the positive things I said about PNC Park ushers, security guards, and Pittsburgh Police.
I heavily criticized the man in the USA Jacket, calling the police action justified, and talked about how I was tired of all the fair weather baseball fans that came out for only fireworks, bobbleheads, and concerts. I blamed the drunks for ruining the game experience for the true baseball fans. I talked about how a fan like that has no place in PNC Park especially around little kids.
Of course, TV used snippets like, “I’d like to see what started it, etc.”
Anyhow, my blog has received over 11,000 hits today as of 9pm, and the youtube video has gone viral, amassing hundreds of thousands of views within the last two days.
Today, I did brief interviews or talked on the phone with msnbc.com, the Today show, Fox News, CNN, The Tribune Review, the CBS network, and several radio stations. Most of them wanted permission to use my video and how to credit me. I just asked that my blog be listed as the source, and not to use my name.
Anyway, as of 9pm, the video had 211,000 views and 1,292 comments. Craziness.
I’d just like to say that PNC Park security had nothing to do with the arrest of the man, and they were trying to keep all fans safe by keeping them away from the maniac.
On to the ballhawking that took place on Sunday.
I arrived 2 minutes before the gates opened and snagged my first ball of the day from Chris Resop in the bullpen as soon as I entered the park.
My second snag of the day was just behind the trash can in this picture.
PNC Park opens the Riverwalk 30 minutes before the rest of the gates, but fans can’t access the stadium. Not only season ticket holders. So, all fans are confined to the outfield concourse/walkway. Luckily, the Pirates were taking batting practice, and left handed power hitter Pedro Alvarez was up.
He hit a home run that cleared the seats, and the blue gate. Nick and I both were in position, and I was closer the gate, and he was a foot or two behind me. I did a full extension leap to make the catch on the fly in the air. It was easily my best catch of the year.
Just before the stadium gates opened so that we could enter the general seating area, I watched an EMS guy pocket at least two baseballs.
Once the stadium opened, knowing that the left field bleachers had been pillaged, I headed over to foul territory.
The Pirates batting practice was slow again, with very few home runs being hit.
I was lined up to make an easy catch, when the guy in the Colorado hat reached up with his bare hand at the last second to try to catch the ball that I had measured up.
His hand crashed into my glove and the ball fell onto the field. He apologized. I was a little annoyed, but it didn’t matter. The ball was right below me, so I glove tricked it easily for ball #4.
One of them turned out to be a Salt River Fields Commemorative Ball, the third such one I had snagged in this series.
My seventh ball of the day was this gem hiding in the bushes.
I used a six foot long pole to dislodge the ball from the ivy, then I reached in and grabbed it.
Season: 36 balls (11 hit, 7 thrown, 11 device, 7 found)
Games: 6 games
Average: 6.00 balls per game
Career: 1,158 balls
Like I mentioned yesterday, I decided that I didn’t want to waste four hours of my day standing around at a run down parking lot behind the left field wall of McKechnie Field. With my girlfriend Amy, we decided to make better use of our time in Florida and head to a different beach.
There were thousands of sea shells on the beach, so we wrote something in ‘shelligraphy.’ Here’s the finished product. I wrote ‘Amy.’
After some beach fun, which included swimming in a cold, empty ocean, we headed to the Orioles Spring Training complex on the way to Bradenton.
He and some coaches were picking up the balls in the outfield.
I called out to one of the coaches and asked if he could toss a ball over. He did.
Then he asked, “How tall are you?” “About 6’5” I answered. I must’ve looked way taller because my whole head was above the six foot fence. I think there must’ve been a tiny mound or something I was standing on. “You look way taller than that!” The coach replied.
There were some cool trees bhind the center field wall:
And a woodpecker that kept drilling holes in the trees above us:
A view of Ed Smith Stadium off in the distance:
A look at the area behind the fences:
A baseball graveyard, protected by barbed wire:
One that didn’t make it:
Here’s a short video of the area where I got the ball at:
After a few minutes, we headed back to our illegally parked car (we weren’t going to pay $9 for 15 minutes of standing outside of a baseball practice field). We then made the trip to Bradenton.
When we arrived, these are the lineups that both teams would put on the field today:
The Red Sox lineup was pretty disappointing – no David Ortiz, no Carl Crawford, no Adrian Gonzalez, no Dustin Pedroia.
We got there just as the game was starting and Mike Cameron was digging in for the Red Sox.
Here was a view of our seats. Notice the large crowd? It was the largest crowd ever in McKechnie Field’s 42 year history.
Here’s some pictures from the game, taken courtesy of Counting Baseballs’ official blog photographer, Amy:
Jose Tabata, the Pirates starting left fielder, awaits a pitch. Hopefully Tabata can improve on his power numbers this year:
Josh Beckett, Boston’s ace, took the mound for the Red Sox.
Here’s a short video of Josh Beckett battling Garrett Jones:
Panorama of a packed house at McKechnie Field:
Pedro Alvarez prepares to react to a pitch:
The Grandstand at McKechnie Field:
John Bowker’s home run swing, as he watches a towering fly ball clear the right field fence:
Brad Lincoln delivers a pitch:
JD Drew, one of the very few regulars from the Red Sox, at the plate:
Another long time Red Sox player, Jason Varitek:
Before we left, we checked out the Pirates’ clubhouse store. Check out the new Pirates hoody this year. Amy is going to get it for me at PNC Park and use my Pirates’ clubhouse store discount.
After the game, we headed back to the ocean for some beach fun.
Later, we had an epic game of miniature golf. On the way back to the hotel, we passed a miniature golf place. Trash talking ensued, and it was on.
The course had a big lake with fountains in the middle of it along with live gators.
By the third hole, I had a slim lead, and was feeling confident.
However, Amy, who typically slugs the heck out of the ball as if it were a driving range, started putting like a PGA pro golfer.
This video just demonstrates my bad luck:
I managed to hold a three stroke lead through the first 9 holes. I had a little bit of trouble in one of the mini golf caves,
but bounced back with a ridiculous hole in one soon after, the only one of the day.
I managed to keep a two stroke lead through most of the game, but started to get too overly confidant.
Another cave brought more bad luck for me.
I tried to distract Amy by pretending that I thought that the caves were actually real and that the golf course was built around the caves. The distraction didn’t work, as she worked her magic and tied up the score.
The game came down to the very last hole. The score was tied up. I went first and the ball came to rest several feet from the hole. Amy came up and used pin point precision to put the ball 8 inches from the hole. It was an easy tap in for her. There was no way she could lose. I had to sink a long put just to tie and keep my non-losing streak in tact. I can’t remember ever losing in miniature golf to a girl. That would all change today, I missed the putt, lost the game, and a private bet between Amy and I.
It was almost 11, so we went back to the hotel to relax before another day in Florida tomorrow.
For the fifth year in a row, I decided to make the trek to Spring Training in Florida. However, this year, I would travel with my girlfriend Amy instead of my dad, who is recovering from surgery.
There was some early airport drama, where we arrived at the security checkpoint 12 minutes prior to the boarding of our plane due to flooding of rivers in Pittsburgh which led to the closing of 376 west, the highway that leads us to the airport. However, Amy did some smooth talking to a TSA agent and got us moved to the front of a lengthy security line, and we arrived at our gate just as the plane began boarding.
We arrived in Tampa at 10:30 and awaited our first spring training game the next day.
We arrived at McKechnie Field bright and early at 9AM and took the obligatory picture in front of the stadium:
And in front of a Spring Training sign posted there:
After taking several more photos, we walked around to the back of McKechnie Field, where I would do my ballhawking for the day.
We actually got there too early, as the cage wasn’t even up yet,
and the players were just starting to stretch
and have a meeting in the outfield.
Batting practice wouldn’t even get started until about an hour later around 10AM, as the players would do some baserunning drills and infield work first.
That left us ample time to explore the area behind the outfield wall. There were a few changes from last year in the area behind the fence.
First, there were a bunch of picnic tables installed, which would lead to crazy bounces and limited range if a ball hit in that area.
Second, the garage where two mechanics used to work on cars had apparently been bought out by the Boys and Girls Club, as evidenced by the logo on the side of the building. This would lead to decreased competition, as the mechanics would typically try and compete for baseballs and subsequently sell them for $3 each at their garage.
Finally, an orange fence was installed to protect bus windows from being shattered by baseballs, and a basketball hoop had been erected in the area.
We made our way behind the old garage,
and over to the area behind the batter’s eye in center field.
All the while, I was keeping an eye out for easter eggs, but there were none.
In the area behind the wall in right center field, there is a small practice field.
After a while, Pirates pitchers came out to do some PFP, Pitcher’s Fielding Practice. Working with pitching coach Ray Searage, the pitchers first worked on taking grounders and making a throw to second base.
Then, they fielded bunts and threw the balls to third base.
Finally, the pitchers took line drive comebackers. The players appeared to be having fun, but none as much as Searage who was extremely cheery and enthusiastic.&nbs
This was my view from the security fence. I didn’t bother any of the players by calling out to them or getting their attention, I just stood and watched.
My girlfriend took a video, about halfway through or so, Evan Meek recognizes me and waves to me. You’ll also see Joel Hanrahan say hello to me. Both of the pitchers were very kind to me at batting practice and have had conversations with me on several occasions.
Check it out in Amy’s video:
There still wasn’t much going on, so I took a video of the area behind McKechnie Field.
Check it out:
Batting practice wouldn’t start for another 30 minutes or so, and the waiting took forever. There was a lot of standing around.
Followed by some pacing.
It allowed Amy to take some random photos, such as this one of a squirrel:
Or this one of an inch worm.
When batting practice finally got underway, it was more of the same. Standing around.
At McKechnie Field, you can’t see the ball until its about to leave the field. I absolutely hate it. It’s very tedious. Imagine doing that for two hours. I was kind of frustrated with the whole process, but I had my girl there to keep me calm.
There were only two competitors there with me. A man in a Barry Bonds shirt,
and his friend.
The two worked as a team. Later, they would be seen selling the balls on the street as we exited the stadium.
They stayed close to the secondary fence and had that whole area covered thanks to a 20 foot long ball retrieving device:
Since they played up, I waited back for any balls that would clear both fences. Unfortunately, there was NO wind at all today, so most fly balls died in left field before even reaching the fence.
I did get my first ball of the day near the end of the Pirates’ batting practice. Amy spotted it first and shouted “Erik! Erik! Erik!” and pointed towards the building. A ball had landed on the roof.
It rolled off the roof and I raced over to scoop it up before ballhawk #2 could get there.
Their session was ama
zingly disappointing. Since the Phillies had a split squad today, they brought all of their scrubs, and very few home runs were hit.
To pass the time, the guy in the Barry Bonds shirt offered to play catch with me.
Near the end of the Phillies’ BP, a batter crushed a home run that bounced on the pavement and into the cypress tree moss above. I crouched down and used my glove to snag it on the bounce.
Moments later, presumably the same batter struck again and ripped a home run that landed in the same place as ball #1, on the roof. I raced over and grabbed ball #3.
That would be all that I would get today. Three balls. I had fun with Amy, but I really disliked ballhawking in this venue. Not being able to see anything takes away a lot of the fun and skill needed. Despite having tickets to tomorrow’s Red Sox / Pirates game, I vowed not to return to McKechnie to ballhawk again.
Some pictures from the game:
The field from our seats, in Sec 8, Row 1.
Ahead of us was Pirates president Frank Coonelly who looked visibly agitated at the amount of runs given up, as well as four misplayed balls by outfielders during the first three innings.
I really like Ross Ohlendorf, but he didn’t have his best stuff today, and four missed catch-able balls by outfielders didn’t help his cause. Keep your head up Ross. That’s what Spring Training is for.
Pedro Alvarez has put on some weight and his range looks very limited, but I only saw two balls hit to him that he didn’t get to, so I’ll have to see a larger sample size to say for certain if he’ll be a liablilty at third.
Lyle Overbay, the Pirates new first baseman. Hopefully he brings a line of .275-20-85 this year at least. We’ll see.
The Phillies didn’t bring many of their regulars, but at least Ryan Howard was there.
Ryan Howard at bat:
Pedro Alvarez digs in. I’m hoping for 35 home runs from Pedro this year, but I fear it may come with a .240 average and lots of strike outs. He’s still young though.
Neil Walker, the Pirates’ second baseman at the plate:
And finally a panorama of McKechnie Field from our seats:
We left after a few inning
s to go enjoy ourselves in Florida.
We headed to the beach.
There weren’t too many people there.
We went for a long walk. And found lots of sea shells.
We eventually came to parts of the beach where there weren’t any people around. So we went exploring.
The second best highlight of going back there was finding a Sting Ray skeleton. Check it out:
We found it here:
The 2011 is getting close, as my Season Tickets have arrived.
This year I will only hold season tickets to the Pirates. Last year, I was a 20 game Cleveland Indians season ticket holder, and a 13 game Cincinnati Reds season ticket holder. I decided not to renew either of those plans. I’ve also decreased my Pittsburgh Pirates season ticket account from three tickets per game to two tickets per game.
Here is the booklet cover design for the 2011 season:
The 2011 season tickets feature four players: Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata – the core four young players. I like the design. Last year’s featured Zach Duke, Charlie Morton, Andy LaRoche, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, and Ross Ohlendorf. Each player took up one ticket on an uncut sheet of six. The tickets looked good, but Andrew McCutchen was the only player that had a decent season of the six. Now, a look at the tickets:
Also, in the package was my 2011 Pirates season ticket card:
The card is key for me, as it allows for me to get in early for batting practice. I’ll need it, since I want to trade in many of my season tickets for give away games and use the free tickets that my girlfriend gets each game from the Pirates as my game entry tickets.
Also included was a letter from Frank Coonelly. Previous letters focused on all of the improvements that the team had made during the off-season. They often predicted a return to glory, etc. Well, coming off of a 105 loss season, this letter basically stated that we play the Orioles in Interleague play, and thank you for coming back.
Dear Erik Jabs,
Enclosed you will find your season tickets for the 2011 season. Opening Day is almost upon us and we are anxious to get the 2011 season started.
On behalf of the Pirates organization, I want to express our sincere thanks for your support. Your loyalty to and faith in the organization make every member of the Club even more determined to perform at a very high level, both on the field and in every other aspect of our relationship to you. You deserve nothing less from us.
As you know, we have an outstanding home schedule this season, including Interleague series against the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. In addition, we have many terrific promotions on the schedule in 2011, highlighted by the 40th anniversary celebration of the 1971 World Series Championship when we host another exciting Interleague series against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday June 21st.
As always, if you have any questions about your tickets, your account or anything as it related to the Pirates, please do not hesitate to contact your account representative.
Again, thank you for choosing to get on board for the 2011 season of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball, and I look forward to seeing you at PNC Park on Thursday April 7th at 1:35 pm for the Home Opener against the Colorado Rockies.
The letter barely makes me excited for the outlook of the team for the 2011 season. I am very excited though, as I am planning on attending many games at PNC Park again this year, as well as making road trips to Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee, with possibly a few more cities.
Spring Training coming up soon for me…
It was a Saturday game at PNC Park – but it was also a Skyblast (Fireworks + George Thorogood concert), so there would be a sellout crowd on hand today.
My goal was to snag seven balls to give me 400 on the season.
I was second in line at the gate and was the first one into the bleachers. There wasn’t anything going on in the cage, but a few Pirates must’ve taken some early swings because I found two balls laying in the front row here:
I then made my way over to foul territory as a few of the Pirates position players were warming up. New Pirates catcher Chris Synder threw me his ball as he walked off the field for ball #3.
Game: 10 balls (6 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device, 2 found)
Season: 403 balls (211 hit, 88 thrown, 51 device, 53 found)
Games: 61 games
Average: 6.61 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 981 balls
Streak: 157 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.