Another day at PNC Park, and another crowd of Phillies fans to deal with throughout batting practice.
Luckily, PNC Park has season ticket holder early entrance, where the season ticket holders get thirty minutes of BP without the general public. That would be huge for me today, as all four of my baseballs would come during the first thirty minutes.
I was second in line behind Nick Pelescak, so I knew that I probably would be second into the bleachers, putting me at a slight disadvantage for grabbing easter eggs. However, Nick brought a curse on himself about two minutes before the gates opened by accidentally touching a cursed baseball.
The baseball in question is brought by a semi regular man who is disabled and can’t speak, but loves to play catch with a minor league baseball. I played catch with him last year and had a ridiculously awful game. The only explanation was that I had touched that baseball. I thought to myself, “That ball is cursed,” and haven’t touched it since. Whenever he gestures to toss me the ball, I make a frown and wave him off.
After watching Nick have some terrible luck on Thursday, I realized that he had played catch with Baseball Joe in line. I warned him later on that night to stay away from the cursed baseball.
Well, Nick was handed the ball by another ballhawk and immediately realized that he was again, cursed.
Two minutes later the gates opened, and for the first time ever, Nick’s ticket wouldn’t scan. Also, out of nowhere, another ticket scanner appeared and scanned my ticket, thus I bypassed Nick and was first into the bleachers. The curse of Baseball Joe. His misfortune was my luck, I found ball #1 laying in the front row.
My second ball came about two minutes later off the bat of Jose Tabata. It was a home run that would’ve landed in the first or second row. Two other ballhawks had the position and were lined up to make the catch. I was in the third row, hoping that the ball would continue to carry, but it didn’t. At the last second, both ballhawks who were positioned to make the catch had to bail on their position because they lost the ball in the ridiculously bright sun.
I never lost sight of the ball, and made an outstretched basket catch, for ball #2 here:
Game: 4 balls (3 hit, 1 found)
Season: 276 balls (149 hit, 64 thrown, 26 device, 38 found)
Games: 43 games
Average: 6.42 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 854 balls
Streak: 139 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
The Phillies were in town today for game 1 of a four game series. Unfortunately for me, their fans travel well, and many arrived early for batting practice.
To make matters worse, the security ticket scanner, who only permits season ticket holders into the left field bleachers wasn’t at his post. In fact, he didn’t show up until 5:11, allowing a steady stream of Phillies fans and non season ticket holders to stroll on in and crowd up the bleachers.
I got my first ball during the Pirates’ first group off the bat of Delwyn Young. He hit a ball that landed in the section directly next to the foul pole. I ran over as three other folks converged towards the back of the section where the ball had landed.
I realized though that the ball was rolling down towards the front row, so I quickly reversed course and ran down to the front row, where I picked up ball #1.
My second ball came from the next Pirates’ group and off the bat of Lastings Milledge.
The ball bounced off the concrete and took a hop up into the rotunda. Several folks were frantically looking around, their heads swiveling hoping to pick up the ball. I knew exactly where it was. It had gotten caught up on the rotunda. I took off and ran up the lower ring of the Rotunda, and there it was:
Season: 272 balls (146 hit, 64 thrown, 26 device, 37 found)
Games: 42 games
Average: 6.48 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 850 balls
Streak: 138 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
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.
The Pirates are out of town until July 17th, which would mean 17 days without a baseball game for me. I decided to break up the drought by attending a game in Philadelphia.
I’d never been to a baseball game in Philly before, so I was interested to see what Citizens Bank Park had to offer.
I got to the stadium at 2:35, almost 2 full hours before the gates were to even open. I figured that I would give myself some extra time to account for traffic and to stop for lunch. (I ended up not stopping because my GPS directed me to a non-existent phantom Wendy’s. Frustrated, I decided to eat at the stadium.) I was there so early, that the parking attendant thought I worked at McFadden’s.
The first matter of business was to find an open ticket window and buy a ticket for today’s game. I walked past the first base entrance
then realized that the Reds had many more righties than lefties, and I’d have a better chance back in the packed left field seats.
Brandon Phillips put on a show in batting practice. One of his home runs came right to me, I was camped underneath it, ready to make the catch, when at the moment the ball was several feet from my glove, about 5 people’s arms slammed into mine. My arm moved, and the ball tipped off my glove. I didn’t get the ball. Fans in Philadelphia are much more agressive when it comes to going a
fter home run balls in batting practice than in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. In Pittsburgh, us ballhawks spread out and have our own little zones that we tend to stay in. We never run into each other or rob each other of home runs when another is camped under one. Next time I go to a game in Philly I’ll be prepared.
I was shut out for the rest of batting practice and ended with 2 baseballs.
I walked around the concourse. I liked how the Phillies post their line up on a large brick wall at the entrance to the left field gate:
The Phillies top 2 stars for my money:
The Liberty Bell (which gongs after a Phillies player goes deep):
Here was my view from my seat:
The Phillies would go on to knock out starter Johnny Cueto in the first inning and score an amazing 10 runs in the first inning. They would go on to win the game 22-1. I don’t think I’ve ever attended such a lopsided game.
I made my back to my hotel in Philadelphia. (Which didn’t have Internet). Ran a few miles on the treadmill in the fitness center, did 31 floors on a stairmaster, and went to bed.
I then disappeared for the next week (which is why its taken me a week to get this entry up) to the shore.
Game: 2 balls (2 hit)
Season: 226 balls (119 hit, 75 thrown, 32 device)
Games: 46 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.91 balls per game
Career: 392 balls
My dad and I left our hotel at 9:50 this morning to see the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton FL. The plan was to get there early and attempt to snag some home run balls in batting practice. Even though McKechnie Field doesn’t have an outfield seating area, there’s a narrow walkway behind the left field fence. I was planning on standing on this sidewalk and chasing down any home runs that came may way.
If you notice in the picture below, the wind was blowing straight out to left between 30-50mph. Little particles kept flying in my eyes and I was kicking myself for not bringing my sunglasses.
I soon abandoned my plan to roam the walkway pictured above. It was too narrow, and I had absolutely no chance of seeing home run balls coming. I moved a bit more toward left center where there was a parking lot for an adjacent school. Competition was slim, as you can see in the picture below. My dad went back to the left field foul pole to watch some batting practice. I heard him yell, “ERIK!” Then I heard some crackling branches above my head. Ball #1 dropped out of the trees and I quickly pounced on it. Another minute later my dad yelled my name again, and another ball crashed through the trees and I fielded it was it bounced off a root. It was Ball #2.
Although I got the first two balls to come out this way, I wasn’t happy that I didn’t see either of them coming. I couldn’t pick the ball up by standing where I was. Before, I was standing too close to the fence. I had no contrast to pick the ball up except the light blue high. I moved farther back.
My dad came back from the foul pole and decided to patrol the area near the school beneath the trees.
This was my spot for much of BP. If you’re wondering why I’m wearing a Phillies hat, its because the only Pirate hat I brought was the one Ian Snell threw me on 9-21-08, and I didn’t want to get that one sweaty.
Soon, another Home Run Ball came out. I had crept in a bit, and that proved to be a mistake. The ball hit about 10 feet in front of me and took a huge hop over my head. My dad was in position to make the snag, but the second bounce went over his head too and hit off of the white shed in the picture below. I ran the ball down, it was ball #3.
Besides the guy in the Phillies jersey a couple pictures up, there were a few entrepreneurial ballhawks in attendance today. They were rough looking locals who caught balls and sold them on the street for $4 or $5. Whenever these guys got a ball, they would take out a brush and doctor the balls up. I was told later by some guy that they bleached the balls to make them look brand new. They also dominated balls that landed within the fence which you can see in the first picture. They had 6 foot sticks that they would inch the balls closer to the fence, and then squeeze the ball under the fence. I could’ve had maybe 2 more balls today if I had a way to get these balls. There were 3 of these guys and a little kid. They didn’t hang around for long though. I continued to wait patiently for my next opportunity.
I got Ball #4 a bit later. It was a home run ball that hit off a palm tree and had lost most of its momentum. It started rolling towards me in the parking lot with one of the hustler ballhawk bleachers in pursuit. I charged the ball like an infielder charges a slow roller and got to it just in time.
Another ball came out soon after that my Dad chased down for his first career batting practice home run ball. He is hoping to get another one tomorrow for one of his nephews.
Batting practice then ended. I had got 4 balls, but I wasn’t done yet. Next to where I had been standing was a school. The school was directly behind the left field wall. The roof of the school was completely flat, meaning balls that were hit on the school stayed on the school. Before leaving, I had looked around for any “Easter Eggs.” There was one behind the batter’s eye in Center Field, but it was a good 15 feet beyond the fence. Impossible to get. I walked over to right center field. There were a good 7 balls laying on the Pirates infield practice field. No one was around at all, but the gates were locked. I waited for a bit and then got an 8 foot long 2×4 off of a scrap heap.
I tried to reach it with the 2×4 board, but couldn’t because the roof was too high and I couldn’t get enough leverage. I needed to be able to stand on something and I would be able to get it.
My dad had the idea of moving over a wooden picnic table for me to stand on.
I couldn’t see the ball, so with my dad telling me “left, right” etc, I was able to get ball #5.
I was pleased with 5 balls
for my first time snagging in Bradenton. It was a completely different experience than what I am used to. Not being able to see the ball until it was landing made it fun to chase the balls down. It also gave those with some agility an advantage. There was also a lot of luck involved. There was some 80 year old guy walking in from the parking lot who got a home run ball that clanked off a branch, took a soft bounce on the concrete and right into his hand.
The Bradenton ballhawk experience is much like the Chicago Cubs’ Waveland Avenue experience. You really can’t see the ball until the last second, and then you have to scramble to chase it down. It was fun.
On to the game:
The Pirates gave most of their regulars the day off. The only regular today was Adam LaRoche. Many regulars were given off due to the night game yesterday. I was a little disappointed. At least the Phillies brought all of their stars. Ian Snell was on the mound for the Pirates. The Pirates ended up winning the game 10-4, fueled by Andrew McCutchen’s 5 for 5 day. There were some towering home runs in the game, including a Ryan Howard shot that cleared the batter’s eye.
I’ll close this entry with some action shots from today’s game:
Jamie Moyer vs Craig Monroe:
Andrew McCutchen close up:
Tomorrow I will head to Tampa FL to see the Pirates take on the New York Yankees at George Steinbrenner Field.