Opening Day brings a new hope for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Every team starts fresh from scratch. Everyone is tied for first place.
It’s the same with us ballhawks. There’s a website, mygameballs.com, where everyone starts even at zero to begin the season.
Last year on Opening Day, I snagged 13 balls. The season ticket holder time came in handy, as I snagged 8 balls by 11:30. You can read about that day here.
However, the minutes ticked away, and 11:00 came and went. No security guards ever showed to unlock the gates or check bags. Eventually, some guy appeared and talked to the ticket scanners. The message he delivered was that the gate would open at 11:30 AM.
The line to get in had already swelled and split in two directions at the bridge.
Someone in charge had decided that there would be no season ticket holder time today. ALL GATES would open at 11:30 AM, so there would be a mass rush and the bleachers would fill up quickly.
I was really disappointed. To make matters worse, there was a relative of Manny Sanguillen’s who was allowed in the park before everyone else, and he went straight to the left field bleachers, so any balls that were in there, would be long gong.
When the gates opened and I ran in, the Phillies were already in the process of hitting. Noooo!
I ran up into the upper bleachers hoping that maybe there would be an Easter Egg hidden up there. When I did, I noticed a long fly ball head toward the left field wall. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak lined up to make the catch, but it fell short of the wall, hitting at the base of the wall and staying there. I quickly ran down and looked. The ball was directly below me. I quickly used the glove trick and reeled in my first ball of the day to get on the board. The whole glove trick took less than 10 seconds. I lowered it over the ball and pulled it right up. I was relieved because I knew that the day wouldn’t be completely ruined. Whenever any of us are facing a shut out it creates unnecessary anxiety that makes the whole ballhawking experience much less enjoyable.
Anyhow, the left field bleachers filled up fast. I only stayed there for the first group, and then headed over to right field, where it was drastically less crowded. Even though the stadium had been opened for 20 minutes, I still looked for Easter Eggs, and I found one:
The ball was hit yesterday by Garrett Jones. I made a mental note when I watched the ball hit the chain link fence, which basically killed all of the ball’s momentum. I watched from left field as the ball softly disappeared out of sight – it had either fallen behind the fence or in a seat. So, when I went to look, it was in the exact spot that I remembered. Sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to every little detail during BP.
This was my view for most of BP, as I stayed in right field, and tried for toss ups from Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Kyle Kendrick.
I failed to get them to throw me anything, but managed to snag a Laynce Nix homer. The ball was a mammoth fly, that I ran up and over a section to catch, but it was just beyond my reach. Luckily, it landed in a seat and plopped calmly and slowly out the bottom of the seat, where I simply picked it up.
After BP, I went and found my dad, who I attended this game with, and we went to Primanti brothers. The line was pretty long, so while he stood in line, I went to go get a First Pitch program and also to check out the Budweiser Bow Tie Bar, a new area built behind section 101.
Here’s the entrance:
Large fire pit warmers were located around the bar:
The bar has seven flat screen TVs:
And part of it faces the field:
Pretty nice. It displaces the Root Sports station, which moved a section closer toward home plate:
After the quick visit to the Bow Tie Bar, we made our way to our seats to eat our Primanti Brothers sandwiches:
And watch the introductions:
I didn’t try ballhawking- I just stayed in my seat for most of the game. I had a great view:
Near the end of the game, I ventured down to the main level to see Amy, who was working and this was the scene in left field:
Completely packed. The cross aisle was completely filled.
In fact, this was the largest ever crowd to ever take in a game at PNC Park. There were 39,585.
Lots of people came out to support their Buccos today.
Unfortunately, the Pirates laid an egg. They scored 0 runs. The first two batters, Alex Presley and Jose Tabata, had singles against Roy Halladay, and that was it. No other batter got a hitter after those two. Only two other batters reached base, by being hit by pitches. The Phillies won 1-0, as the Pirates start the season 0-1.
The Pirates have the hardest schedule in baseball. Look at their April and May schedule. They don’t play a team that had a losing record in 2011 until they face the Astros in mid May. All of the teams they play at the outset of the season were playoff teams or contenders last year. We just can’t catch a break.
Tomorrow, I’ll be up and early for a road trip and my second Home Opener in as many days.
I’ve been posting 2012 MLB Previews for each division throughout the past two weeks. In case you missed it, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, and AL West preview by clicking on the links provided.
It’s time to move onto the National League. First up, is the NL East.
I’ve also included 2012 Predicted statistics from the 2012 Major League Baseball Yearbook and Fantasy Guide.
1ST Place: Philadelphia Phillies (My prediction: 95-67)
This Philadelphia Phillies were the top team in 2011, winning 102 games, before losing in the first round of the playoffs. Over the past five years, the Phillies have only improved during the regular season, winning 89 games in 2007, then 92, 93, 97, and 102. However, I am predicting that they regress a little bit in 2012, thanks to a strengthened National League Eastern Division.
The Phillies have one of the best rotations in the game, despite losing Roy Oswalt.
Anchored by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels – the Phillies shouldn’t experience and losing streaks longer than three games.
The Phillies also added Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason to close games out. Papelbon is one of the top relievers in the game, despite his 2011 finale against the Orioles, where he blew the game and the season for the Red Sox.
The Phillies have a decent offense. Ryan Howard is coming off of an injury, and had a bit of an offseason in 2011, hitting just .253 with 33 home runs.
Chase Utley has been in decline the past three years, each year worst than the last. To be fair, he has been riddled with injuries over the past two seasons. He hit just .259 with 11 homers last season.
I’m not thrilled with Placido Polonco as the Phillies third baseman. Third base is a power position, and Polonco is a contact hitter. He hit .277 with 5 HR and 50 RBI last year, along with a .335 on base percentage.
However, the Phillies brought in Ty Wigginton to be a super utility type player, and he could unseat Polonco as the regular starter at third.
Phillies fans have to be upbeat about their outfield. They have John Mayberry in left field, or possibly Laynce Nix… Shane Victorino in centerfield and Hunter Pence in right field.
For me, I’m most intrigued with Jim Thome signing with the Phillies. Thome hasn’t played the field much in recent years, but I’m hoping that he gets some time at first base, and isn’t just a pinch-hit only type guy like Matt Stairs was the final few years of his career.
Here’s their 2012 statistical projections.
C Carlos Ruiz .289-6-43
1B Ryan Howard .259-29-98
1B Jim Thome .266-14-43
2B Chase Utley .279-20-74
3B Placido Polanco .284-6-52
3B Ty Wigginton .258-10-34
SS Jimmy Rollins .279-19-74
LF John Mayberry .261-24-77
CF Shane Victorino .272-18-67
RF Hunter Pence .302-23-91
SP Roy Halladay 19-8, 2.42 ERA, 234 IP, 212 K
SP Cliff Lee 19-8, 2.89 ERA, 221 IP, 210 K
SP Cole Hamels 14-10, 3.11 ERA, 191 K
SP Vance Worley 12-8, 3.90 ERA, 135 K
SP Joe Blanton 5-4, 4.66 ERA, 100 IP, 81 K
RP Jonathan Papelbon 3.34 ERA, 30 saves, 65 IP, 80 K
RP Antonio Bastadro 3.43 ERA, 3 saves, 60 IP, 74 K
2nd place: Atlanta Braves (My prediction 87-75)
The Atlanta Braves are going to battle it out with the Marlins and Nationals all season long for a wild card spot. For me, the Braves starting rotation gives them a slight edge.
Tim Hudson is 36 years old, but figures to be the ace of the staff, after posting a 16-10 record with a 3.22 ERA in 2011.
The Braves also welcome back Jair Jurrjens in 2011, despite trying to trade him and Martin Prado for most of the offseason. Jurrjens had a 2.96 ERA last season.
Tommy Hanson began spring training a bit banged up after being in an accident, but his concussion like symptoms should be cleared up by opening day. Hanson struggled at times in 2011, posting a 3.60 ERA.
Brandon Beachy led the Braves last year with 169 strikeouts, and continues the trend of top to bottom rotational depth on the Braves.
For their fifth starter, the Braves will choose either Julio Teheran or Mike Minor. With a rotation like they have lined up, its hard not to choose them as second in the division, no matter how much I don’t like them.
Offensively, the Braves have some stars with Brian McCann behind the plate (24 HR in ’11)
and Dan Uggla (36 HR) at second. Uggla couldn’t hit his weight for much of the season before going on an impressive 33 game hitting streak to salvage his season.
The Braves also have some questions marks. Will Chipper Jones be able to play regularly at a high level? He’s 40 years old now, and hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup regularly for two years now.
Will Jason Heyward’s reconstructed swing hasten him back to the days of 2010 when he was a star rookie? Or will he struggle again like he did in 2011? (.227/14/14)
Will Matt Diaz defy all odds and actually hit a home run?
How will Tyler Pastornicky do? He could be the team’s opening day shortstop.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Brian McCann .263-22-70
1B Freddie Freeman .296-22-83
2B Dan Uggla .253-36-90
3B Chipper Jones .268-18-67
SS Tyler Pastornicky .256-4-29
LF Martin Prado .271-15-67
CF Michael Bourne .290-2-51
RF Jason Heyward .255-19-66
SP Tim Hudson 17-10, 3.05 ERA, 224 IP, 155 K
SP Jair Jurrjens 15-10, 3.57 ERA, 209 IP, 137 K
SP Tommy Hanson 15-8, 3.82 ERA, 177 IP, 171 K
SP Brandon Beachy 11-8, 3.78 ERA, 179 IP, 187 K
SP Julio Teheran 9-6, 4.01 ERA, 126 IP, 70 K
RP Craig Kimbrel 1.81 ERA, 35 saves, 70 IP, 118 K
RP Jonny Venters 2.35 ERA, 3 saves, 84 IP, 88 K
3rd place: Miami Marlins (My prediction 85-77)
The Marlins went on a spending spree this winter as they move into a new stadium this year. Despite losing out on the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, they did manage to sign impact free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. It’s full steam ahead for the Marlins in 2012.
The Marlins offense looks to be quite good. They’ve got John Buck, who has power, but struggles to hit for average behind the plate. He only hit .227 last year.
Gaby Sanchez is a solid first baseman offensively – he hit 19 homers last year. He’s no Albert Pujols, but he’s respectable. At least he throws a mean clothesline. Ask Nyjer Morgan.
Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio could share time at second base in 2012. Bonifacio could also spend time in the outfield, displacing Chris Coghlan.
Hanley Ramirez will garner some attention as he moves from shortstop to third base. Ramirez appeared to be upset with the move at first, which was necessitated when the Marlins traded for Reyes. However, he seems to be warming up to the idea of playing third, and hopefully his bat warms too, because he was bad last year. The former All Star only hit .243 with 10 homers.
Jose Reyes was the batting champ last year, and probably the third best free agent behind Pujols and Prince Fielder in 2012. He brings speed and excitement to the Marlins.
The outfield looks solid at the corners with Mike Stanton on track to have another monster year. He launched 34 home runs in 2011, and figures to hit even more as he continues to age and progress as a player. He’s only 22 years old after all.
Logan Morrison, known more for his antics off the field with his zany twitter alter-ego LoMo, hopes to make a name for himself on it as well this year. He did well in 2011, hitting 23 home runs, but saw his average dip to .247.
In center field, Emilio Bonifacion will play, or possibly Chris Coghlan. Coghlan was injured much of 2011, hitting only .230. Some would say it’s karma after this incident involving fellow ballhawker the Happy Youngster. Coghlan went on to win the rookie of the year, while the Happy Youngster got a bad rep and faded away from the ballhawking scene. Maybe the Youngster makes a comeback in ’12?
As far as their rotation is concerned, the Marlins look like they’ll be decent, but not great.
Josh Johnson is returning from an injury, but has the talent to be a front line starter. He had a 1.64 ERA in 9 starts before being injured last season.
Mark Buehrle is a proven veteran that is a solid #2 starter.
Behind those two, the Marlins have Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez. Nothing spectacular, but acceptable as starters.
Interestingly, the Marlins traded for Carlos Zambrano. After a rocky career in Chicago, things have been quiet so far on the Zambrano front.
At the back of the bullpen, they’ve got Heath Bell to close things out. Bell had 43 saves for a poor Padres team in 2011, so he could do even better in 2012.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C John Buck .241-17-66
1B Gaby Sanchez .262-18-76
2B Omar Infante .290-10-59
3B Hanley Ramirez .291-22-91
SS Jose Reyes .318-10-52
LF Logan Morrison .250-24-80
CF Emilio Bonifacio .292-4-31
RF Mike Stanton .265-38-97
SP Josh Johnson 14-6, 2.54 ERA, 226 IP, 216 K
SP Mark Buehrle 13-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 103 K
SP Ricky Nolasco 13-12, 4.60 ERA, 205 IP, 168 K
SP Anibal Sanchez 9-10, 3.64 ERA, 180 IP, 169 K
SP Carlos Zambrano 11-10, 4.52 ERA, 163 IP, 120 K
RP Heath Bell 2.64 ERA, 41 saves, 65 IP, 65 K
RP Juan Oviedo 4.00 ERA, 4 saves, 63 IP, 59 K
4th place: Washington Nationals (My prediction: 84-78)
The Nationals are an improved team over last year, they added Edwin Jackson and are getting Stephen Strasburg back from an injury that cost him most of 2011.
The Nationals were unlucky and lost out on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes to Detroit and are stuck with Adam LaRoche as their first baseman. LaRoche should not get Nationals fans excited. Based on his track record, he will be abysmal until the All Star break and then recover to finish with a slightly above average line. I’ve seen it in Pittsburgh. Us Pirates fans were expecting 40 HR and 100 RBI with the short right field fence, but it never came close to happening with LaRoche. If LaRoche really bombs in his rebound year from injury, the Nats could put Mike Morse at first base and open up a spot in the outfield for Bryce Harper.
Wilson Ramos, acquired from the Nationals for ex-Pirates reliever Matt Capps survived a harrowing ordeal during the offseason when he was kidnapped at gunpoint and held captive. Thankfully, he was rescued without injury and looks to follow up a 15 HR, .445 slugging season with another decent offensive showing.
The Nationals have a power source at second base in Danny Espinosa. He slugged 21 homers last year despite hitting just .236.
Ryan Zimmerman just signed a $100 million dollar contract to keep him in a Nationals uniform til 2020. That’s a serious commitment to what many in the Nationals brass consider the face of the franchise. Zimmerman was injured for part of 2011, and hit only 12 homers – but if healthy, he’s capable of putting up 25-30 HR on the board while playing excellent defense. He’ll want to prove to everyone that he’s worth the $100 million. Although one baseball writer tweeted, “$100 million is an awful lot for a one time all-star.”
In the outfield, the Nationals are set with Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth. Werth was terrible in 2011. He may have hit 20 homers, but Nationals fans expected more power, and certainly better than a .232 batting average and .389 slugging percentage. Werth was one of the best players in the league before signing with the Nationals. His statistics took a nosedive once he joined the team. He is one of several reasons why the Nationals could be the surprise team in 2012. Can he return to the Werth that roamed the outfield for the Phillies?
Michael Morse is probably my favorite Nationals player. If you get the chance to go to a Nationals game, simply stand in left center field and get ready to be bombarded with home run balls. The guy is a monster. He reminds me a lot of Mike Stanton in terms of body structure and pure power. After hitting .303/31/95 in 2011, he could be a candidate to hit 40 homers.
A major question in the Nationals outfield leading into 2012 is if Bryce Harper will be the starting right fielder in 2012. Manager Davey Johnson said the 19 year old has a chance. If he makes the team, expect the same level of hype to follow Harper around that Stephen Strasburg had back in 2010.
In terms of the rotation, its much improved after the signing of Edwin Jackson to an 11 million dollar one year contract. Personally, I don’t think much of Jackson after he spurned the Pirates 3 year $30 million offer to accept less money with the Nationals. He’s an excellent #2 pitcher though.
The ace of the Nationals is Stephen Strasburg and he may be babied again in 2012 as the Nats seem terrified of him getting injured again. If Strasburg weren’t on strict pitch counts, his strike out numbers could be ridiculous. However, he still has amazing stuff and should baffle hitters all season long. He’s a special player. I’ll never forget attending his major league debut against the Pirates in Washington DC in June of 2010.
The Nationals’ third starter is Gio Gonzalez, the ex-ace of the Oakland Athletics. He posted a 16-12 record with a 3.12 ERA in the American League last year. Reason states that his ERA should drop a little since he doesn’t have to face the DH in the National League anymore.
The Nationals rest of the rotation is average. At the back end they’ve got Drew Storen to close out games, or possibly new addition Brad Lidge.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Wilson Ramos .269-16-55
1B Adam LaRoche .243-14-56
2B Danny Espinosa .258-23-72
3B Ryan Zimmerman .296-24-81
SS Ian Desmond .261-8-51
LF Michael Morse .300-30-90
CF Roger Bernadina .238-7-30
RF Jayson Werth .245-20-64
SP Stephen Strasburg 13-6, 2.40 ERA, 139 IP, 151 K
SP Gio Gonzalez 16-11, 3.25 ERA, 211 IP, 208 K
SP Jordan Zimmerman 10-19, 4.33 ERA, 141 IP, 102 K
SP Edwin Jackson 13-9, 3.95 ERA, 203 IP, 156 K
SP John Lannan 12-11, 4.01 ERA, 191 IP, 117 K
SP Chien Ming Wang 9-7, 3.83 ERA, 125 IP, 47
RP Drew Storen 3.01 ERA, 38 saves, 81 IP, 81 K
RP Tyler Clippard 2.34 ERA, 0 saves, 85 IP, 100 K
5th place: New York Mets (My prediction 62-100)
The Mets are going to be bad in 2012. They are slashing payroll left and right, and might deal David Wright at the trade deadline this year.
Am I wrong Mets fans? I think they’ll lose 100 games. The division is tough, and they are worse than last year.
David Wright is the long bright spot, but there’s really no one to protect him in the order.
Ike Davis has some pop, but will be be consistent throughout the season?
Then there’s Jason Bay, one of the biggest free agent busts since Barry Zito. After signing a $66 million contract, Bay has done next to nothing. Maybe moving the fences in at Citi Field will help him some.
Andres Torres, a 4th or 5th outfielder on just about every other team, will be the starting center fielder.
Ruben Tejada is no Jose Reyes at shortstop. He has no power, but can hit for an acceptable average near .300.
The rotation pales in comparison to the other four teams in the division. Johan Santana will finally be back after missing an eternity due to injury. If he’s half the pitcher he used to be, he’ll still be the best pitcher on the Mets.
It’s going to be a long year. At least watching RA Dickeys facial expressions and knuckleball should be fun.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Josh Thole .273-4-46
1B Ike Davis .260-20-73
2B Daniel Murphy .318-8-66
3B David Wright .269-20-87
SS Ruben Tejada .288-0-60
LF Jason Bay .252-16-76
CF Andres Torres .237-6-27
RF Lucas Duda .301-13-61
SP Johan Santana 12-7, 2.84 ERA, 162 IP, 142 K
SP Mike Pelfrey 11-11, 4.39 ERA, 193 IP, 106 K
SP Jonathon Niese 10-11, 4.43 ERA, 167 IP, 146 K
SP Dillon Gee 12-10, 4.79 ERA, 179 IP, 134 K
SP RA Dickey 9-12, 3.13 ERA, 201 IP, 125 K
RP Frank Francisco 3.33 ERA, 28 saves, 51 IP, 55 K
RP Jon Rauch 4.05 ERA, 5 saves, 53 IP, 39 K
So, to review, I have:
I think the Braves, Marlins, and Nationals could be pretty much interchangeable though, as they are all similar in talent level.
What are your thoughts?
Leave a comment!
There’s only 37 days until opening day, and 4 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). Also, the first listed Spring Training game on the MLB schedule is tomorrow when the Phillies take on the Seminoles. Also, just five more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.
This week’s giveaway is a Philadelphia Phillies T-Shirt. It is the fourth in a series of weekly giveaways leading up to opening day. I’ve been posting everyday (30 consecutive so far) leading up to opening day, and giving stuff away to thank my readers.
The shirt(s) I’m giving away this week are…
A Ryan Howard Nike shirt.
This shirt not only is very colorful, but also is the perfect shirt to wear when sitting near the Phillies dugout. Ryan Howard will probably end up with the third out ball in about half of the innings. Simply stand up in this shirt and raise your glove. He’ll see the shirt and have to hook you up.
I’m also giving away this Philadelphia Phillies shirt:
It features the ‘classic print’ design, which is one of my favorite Majestic shirts designs.
Or, how about a Roy Halladay shirt?
That’s right, it says Doc-tober, and I think you can figure out why.
How about a clever Hunter Pence shirt?
Get it? Pence-ylvania… Pennsylvania.
The winner of this weeks entry gets their choice of any of those four shirts. I can get you pretty much any size you want, as the local sports store has many different sizes in stock.
I post blog entries every day. All you have to do is leave a comment or retweet my blog link on twitter.
So, again, to enter:
1) Leave a comment.
You can enter up to seven times per week simply by leaving a comment. Non-pertinent, spam, or inappropriate comments will not be accepted. If you comment multiple times on the same blog entry, it still counts as one entry. For example, if you commented on three different blog posts from this week, you’d have three entries. If you’d comment three times on the same blog posting, it would could as one.
2) Retweet (RT) my posts on Twitter
You can find me on twitter under 333greystreet. Simply retweet my daily posts of my blog link and I’ll count that as an entry. My blog is connected to my twitter so that I automatically tweet once I post a new entry. Each day, I’ll search who’s retweeted me and enter those users into a hat along with the commenters. By the way, you do not need to retweet my every tweet, only the tweets that announce a new blog post and url. For example, if I tweeted, ‘Rerun of the Pirates Opening Day 2011 on tonight,’ if you retweeted it, it wouldn’t count as an entry.
At the end of the week on Sunday, I’ll have Olivia, Amy or I will choose a name from a hat and announce the winner.
Also, I’ve decided to giveaway more shirts this week based on the performance of my blog. For each day that my blog gets over 1,000 views, I’ll choose another Phillies shirt winner at the end of this week. So, I could possibly be giving away seven Phillies shirts this week.
Why spend $25 in a store or $15 on ebay when you can get them for free here?
Since my blog began in 2008, I’ve had four days that I’ve had over 1,000 views, with my busiest day coming back in April 2011 when I had 11,441 views.
That’s because of THIS VIDEO that I shot.
So far this month, I’ve had a few days where I’ve been between 600-700 views, but haven’t been able to break that elusive 1,000 barrier in a day yet this year.
Maybe all of the Phillies fans out there will change that. Maybe a Phillies player will tweet this giveaway to Phillies fans and make me honor my offer and give away a bunch of shirts. I hope so.
Anyhow, my question is, in an NL East consisting of the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals, and Mets, where do you think the Phillies will finish?
If you have them finishing first? How far do you think they go in the playoffs? If they’re not winning their division, who is?
I think the Phillies are too good of a team to not win the division. The Marlins and Nationals are much improved and will be major players this year, so I don’t think the Phillies will win 102 games again this year, but they’ll be in the mid 90’s and well on their way to another shot at the World Series.
There’s only 45 days until opening day, and 12 days the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies).
It was a Sunday game, which was a day game following a night game, thereby decreasing the chances of batting practice.
I got to the stadium around 11AM, and saw no trace of the batting cage or screens. So, I hung out on the bridge for twenty minutes, where I could see directly into the park. I then left, resigned to the fact that there would be no batting practice. Coupled with 35,000 people at the game, it just wasn’t worth running around all game for a ball or two.
I started walking back to the car when I got a text from my fiancee Amy, who was working the game. She told me that they were wheeling out the screens and that batting practice would be on.
I jogged back to the park and made it into the left field bleachers by 11:35, 35 minutes after the gates had opened.
Only the Phillies would be hitting today.
And, it was packed.
The move paid off, as I caught a Ben Francisco home run ball on the fly here for ball #3:
I didn’t snag anything else until the 5th inning. A large group of people left the front row in center field, so I went down for a minute to give myself a chance at an Andrew McCutchen warm up ball. He fired a perfect strike to me, while I was on the phone with Amy, who I was meeting up with for some food on her break.
That would be my fourth and final ball of the day.
Game: 4 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 177 balls (67 hit, 40 thrown, 47 device, 23 found)
Games: 29 games
Average: 6.10 balls per game
Career: 1,299 balls
Amy and I spent the afternoon being shown a couple houses by a realtor and then headed to PNC Park.
Today was a Fireworks night, and the Phillies were in town. AND it was the largest crowd ever recorded in PNC Park history. That doesn’t make a good ballhawking environment.
Fan-photo day with the players on Federal Street from 3-4 pm.
Immediately upon entering, Kevin Correia tossed me a ball to put me on the board.
I would go the next thirty minutes without snagging anything. The home runs that were hit, were over my head and were gobbled up by other fans. Eventually, a fan in the front row misplayed a home run ball. The ball hit his glove square and fell back onto the field. It was an easy glove trick opportunity. I asked the fan, who was maybe 14, if he wanted me to get the ball for him. He said yes, so I glove tricked it, and handed over ball #2.
And another was a Chris Snyder bomb that sailed between the rotunda and upper bleachers and bounced into a concession stand, where it was thrown to me by a worker.
At the end of the Pirates BP, I was flat out robbed by a Phillies fan. Daniel McCutchen looked directly at me and tossed me a ball. This guy in Phillies gear, who the ball was clearly NOT intended for, quickly reached in front of my glove and intercepted it.
My fifth ball was glove tricked here during the Phillies BP,
and I glove tricked another near the end of the BP over along the left field foul line. That was it for today.
There wasn’t much point of trying for home run balls unless they were right at me or toss ups. Here was my view for the last 45 minutes or so of batting practice:
After batting practice, I left, went to the gym.
Here are today’s baseballs (five pictured because one was given away):
Game: 6 balls (1 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device)
Season: 173 balls (66 hit, 39 thrown, 45 device, 23 found)
Games: 28 games
Average: 6.18 balls per game
Career: 1,295 balls
It’s been about 10 days since my last game. I’ve cut down on the road trips since last year, as an average trip to Cleveland costs $75 a game, and a trip to Washington or Baltimore averages about $100 a game in gas and tolls. It wasn’t worth it to me.
Amy and I have spent the last ten days scouring the housing market. I’ve decided that I want to have a nice house for my baby daughter (due in August) to grow up in. Our current one bed room apartment just isn’t cutting it.
Amy and I have been putting together lists, driving around, and scratching off 80% of the houses we drive by. We’ve toured six solid contenders so far, and are looking at houses in the $150,000-$200,000 range. All of the ones we like are 200k, which is a huge commitment. So, as you can see, at least for the time being, I would rather spend my money on a house than ballhawking trips as I have in the past.
Anyhow, my first two balls of the day came from Brandon Wood. The first one was thrown to me from left field, but fell well short. The ball rested on the warning track, where I glove tricked it for ball #1.
I usually do not use my glove trick during the Pirates batting practice. I figure that if I am seen using the glove trick it will make the Pirates pitchers less likely to want to toss me a ball. However, since many of the Pirates pitchers seem to dislike the fact that I am there every game, I just went for it.
Wood did not see me use the glove trick, and turned and threw a perfect strike to me for ball #2 at the end of the Pirates batting practice.
My fifth and final ball was glove tricked in right field.
Game: 5 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 3 device)
Season: 167 balls (64 hit, 38 thrown, 41 device, 23 found)
Games: 27 games
Average: 6.19 balls per game
Career: 1,289 balls
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: