I was late to this game due to a prior commitment. By the time I got to the gate, the line had swelled to the back of the Clemente Bridge. The Pirates only employ one ticket scanner for the first half hour, so this was going to take forever to get into the stadium.
I stood in line impatiently until 5:02, thinking about all of the missed opportunities. I then remembered the Trib Total Media Hall of Fame club entrance. Its the team’s restaurant entrance, and it opens at 5. I hurried over to the Hall of Fame Club entrance, and there was no line. I immediately had my ticket scanned, grabbed a t-shirt (It was a T-shirt Thursday), hopped on the elevator, and hustled through the restaurant to the stairway that led down to left field. I was able to make it into the bleachers by 5:06.
I got ball #1 from Pirates reliever Chris Bootcheck. A ball rolled to the wall, and I moved down to the front row, and put in a polite request. Chris turned and threw me the ball. I was on the board.
There was only one right handed batter in the Pirates’ last BP group – Brian Bixler, and I would have to wait for the Phillies to come out and hit to get some more baseballs.
Yesterday, the first group was all right handed batters, and it was an amazing round of non stop home runs. However, today, there were three lefties in the first group, thereby cutting down on hit ball opportunities.
I caught ball #2 off the bat of Jason Werth. I had moved back two rows from where I usually stand, since Werth hits for decent power. He hit a home run into section 136. I ranged to my right. The ball was just out of the reach of another ballhawk, and I was able to make the grab.
When a left handed batter came up to hit, I noticed that Matt Stairs was coming over to the left field corner to pick up three baseballs. I went down to the front row and asked Matt for a ball. He hooked me up with ball #3. He also tossed the other two balls into the stands. What a good guy.
Soon, I noticed a gap shot that rolled to the 410 sign in left center field near the bullpen. Cole Hamels was making his way over to pick the ball up, but another ball was hit at him, causing him to momentarily forget about picking up the ball at the base of the wall. I quickly went over and glove tricked the ball, for ball #4 of the day.
Ball #5 was a home run that landed in the section near the foul pole. I ran over and picked the ball up off of the ground. It had bounced back towards the field, hit a bleacher, and began rolling right towards me. I have no idea who hit it.
Pedro Feliz provided me with ball #6. He hit a home run right at me that I snagged on the fly.
It was now 5:30, and season ticket holder time was ending. The first 30 minutes of batting practice is much easier to get baseballs, because there is virtually no one there. At 5:30, a throng of fans sporting Phillies gear descended upon the bleacher area. I decided that I was going to leave the area and head over to right field.
I boxed out another fan in pursuit and picked up ball #7 of the day, #500 of my career. Not exactly the greatest way to snag a milestone ball, but I got the job done.
About half way through this year I had set career ball #500 as a
secondary goal to snagging 300 in 2009. With these goals met, I could
probably make these my two new goals:
1) Snag 63 balls in September, so as to get to 400 balls in 2009.
2) Snag career ball #1,000 before the end of next season (2010).
A few rounds later, I would go on to catch ball #8, a line drive that found its way directly to me. I made the two handed catch and got a nice little round of applause from a group of Phillies fans sitting behind me.
I stayed on the right field wall for the third group, which included Matt Stairs, but got shut out for the round. Stairs hit two balls directly at me, but they completely cleared the right field wall, and ended up floating in the Allegheny River.
For the Phillies’ final batting practice group, I headed back over to left field. It was packed.
I wouldn’t be able to have much range at all. Predictably, I wasn’t able to catch any home runs, as there were maybe three hit during the round, and none of them were in my vicinity.
Batting practice then ended, and I was stuck on nine balls. I needed to get one more. Double digit games are rare, and this would be my sixth career game snagging 10 or more balls if I could somehow just snag one more.
Then, I saw it. A ball had been left on the warning track in center field. An easy glove trick job and I would have 10 balls on the day. I made my way over, but there was some new female usher that told me I wasn’t allowed to be in the section without a ticket. Realizing arguing would get my no where, I decided to let that ball go. There was another ball that had been eating away at me for some time.
It’s been there at least a month. A ball has been tucked in the far corner on top of a concession building in the outfield concourse.
I had decided that I was going to snag that ball today, as I didn’t want to let any more time pass, as the ball was likely deteriorating as time went by.
I had placed a cup at the end of my river device, which is a ten foot pole. I climbed up the stairs, looked on top of the roof, and stretched out the pole to the maximum length. However, I was coming up just short of being able to reach the ball. Frustrated and feeling my opportunity get away, I stood on the railing to try and reach the ball. Then, the cup fell out. I was screwed.
I walked down to the concourse, collected my thoughts, and …
got the ball. At my descretion, I’ve chosen not to reveal the details, but I’ve got a witness in my friend Nick. The ball will count as an easter egg – which will count as a hit ball. The ball ended up not being a device ball after all.
My arms got filthy from this snag. Also notice that the ball had started to detiorate a little bit. The leather had dried out signicantly, and it was also faded a bit. It didn’t matter, it was ball #10.
Game: 10 balls (6 hit, 3 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 337 balls (178 hit, 99 thrown, 60 device)
Games: 69 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.88 balls per game
Career: 503 balls
Career Double Digit Games: 6
Streak: 84 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Those of us at PNC Park during the Season Ticket Holder time were under siege by the Phillies first batting practice group today.
Batting practice started out calmly, well, because the Pirates were hitting. I would go on to get only one ball during this time from Ross “The Boss” Ohlendorf. A ball rolled to the wall and I politely asked for the ball. He looked at me and tossed me ball #1.
The first group yesterday included several lefties. Today, they were all right handed batters, and they were raking. There were only maybe two dozen of us there, since it was still season ticket holder only time, so there was plenty of running around up until 5:30.
I caught ball #2 off of the bat of Pedro Feliz on the fly. I had to run down to the second row to
I can’t operate without my Iphone. They were able to pull the card out and clean it. The phone them worked perfectly – and they didn’t charge me.
Only 7 more balls to go until career ball #500…
Game: 8 balls (5 hit, 3 thrown)
Season: 327 balls (172 hit, 96 thrown, 59 device)
Games: 68 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.81 balls per game
Career: 493 balls
Streak: 83 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I went down by the river before the gates open to try and snag a ball. Usually one or two per day will sail out of the stadium.
Ballhawking by the river takes a lot of patience and concentration, because you can’t see the ball until the last moment, so you have to be extremely focused. It doesn’t help that seemingly every passer by feels the need to stop and ask you what you’re doing.
After ten minutes of standing motionless starting at the sky, I saw a ball flying towards me. I moved quickly to my right, but the ball was over my head and landed in the river, on the fly.
YES! I’d finally get to use my new device to snag a ball. I took out a golf ball retriever and unfurled the 14 foot pole. I laid on my stomach and reached out at the ball. I was about a foot short.
I could’ve repositioned my body, waited for the ball to drift in towards the shore, or double checked to made sure that the pole was fully extended. However, some guy on a jetski comes motoring up and reaches over to grab the ball.
“Can you just move it a bit closer,” I asked. Not listening, he picked up the ball and flipped it to me (as I was laying on my stomach, fully extended.)
Since the guy grabbed the ball and tossed it to me, I couldn’t count the ball in my stats, and I was furious about it.
That was the only ball that would exit the stadium.
I would eventually get ball #1 off the bat of Jason Jaramillo. He hit a home run that landed on the left field rotunda, which I sprinted up and picked up the ball as it was rolling down the ramp.
Ball #2 was a home run that Pedro Feliz would hit. It was an easy catch. Little did I know that I would encounter poor luck and be shut out the rest of the day.
During the second Phillies group, I went to right field, where I had a ball hit the heel of my glove and fall to the floor. Some Phillies fan scooped it up. Since I have a glove trick, I have a large ball of string tucked into the bottom of my glove. Usually, I catch balls in the webbing. However, this ball hit on the heel, and I wasn’t able to close my glove around the ball thanks to the big ball of string.
It was a glaring, awful error. After it happened, my attitude soured, and I didn’t even want to be there anymore.
Game: 2 balls (2 hit)
Season: 319 balls (166 hit, 93 thrown, 59 device)
Games: 67 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.76 balls per game
Career: 485 balls
Streak: 82 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.