Amy, Olivia and I headed down to the David L Lawrence Convention Center on Friday for the season ticket holder only portion of Piratefest.
The general public would have to wait until Saturday and Sunday to attend. As an added perk, since I had paid for my three season tickets in full, I was granted early access at 4 PM, two and a half hours before the rest of the season ticket holders are allowed in.
Therefore, when 4PM came, we walked in, and the few season ticket holders that were paid in full flocked to the autograph lines and the clubhouse store to take advantage of their 40% off coupons. It made the hall eerily empty.
By the way, Jeff Karstens was working scanning our tickets:
And Andrew McCutchen, James McDonald, and Neil Walker were working passing out the calendars to fans:
Our first stop was the Pirates Clubhouse store.
There I purchased a Pirates 2011 style BP hat for $14 with the VIP shopping coupon that was sent to me. The second stop was the authenticated merchandise area. There were lots of game used jerseys, balls, bats, line up cards, etc there.
Some of the merchandise was rather pricey. An Andrew McCutchen game used road jersey?
I considered buying a Herbie Andrade game used jersey to hopefully get the guy to like me again after seeing me switch shirts to the visiting team, but $125 seemed too expensive.
I did end up buying some game used merchandise. First, I bought a bag of four game used baseballs:
The balls were in a grab bag. Each ball was game used and has an authentication sticker on it with a hologram. I got a ball from Opening Day 2008 in Atlanta, a ball from the 2008 home opener, a ball from 2011 when Joel Hanrahan set a save record, and a Garrett Jones RBI base hit baseball from June 20 2011 vs Indians. Pretty cool, they’ve got to be worth more than the $5 each that I paid. At worst I was planning on peeling off the stickers and giving them away as decoy balls throughout the 2012 season.
Also, there were lineup cards from every game from the 2011 season. They were all in chronological order, so I flipped through and bought one from the day Olivia was born. She was actually born as the game was going on!
So, it will get framed and hang in her bedroom. It was only $25 by the way, not too bad.
There was a large Christmas tree in the middle of the convention center, but besides that, there weren’t many Christmas decorations. It was all black and gold everywhere.
We took advantage of the low crowds to head over to the MVP zone, which is a season ticket holder only area with short lines. There we got autographs from:
Daniel McCutchen and Michael McKenry.
McCutchen recognized me and asked how many balls McKenry had thrown me. I told him ‘none.’ I also told him he threw one to me in 2011, albeit by accident, as it was a random flip up into the stands in Cleveland.
There was Alex Presley and Kevin Correia:
and Clint Barmes, Jose Tabata and Chris Resop. Joel Hanrahan was at the table too, but bailed about two minutes before I got up to the table.
We also stopped by the 2012 Promotional booth, where many of the give aways from the coming year are on display. There was a wall of shirts from Free Shirt Fridays:
And a closer look at the 12 shirts that will be given away:
First is a plain looking white tee shirt that’s kind of boring, followed by a rather sharp black shirt.
There is a camo Pirates logo shirt and a generic gray shirt.
Two weird design shirts, one of silhouettes of Pirates players past and present, and another silhouette of Andrew McCutchen on a white shirt:
A gold Pirates shirt, which is great for ballhawking because it makes you stand out, and a gray shirt with the Pittsburgh skyline on it, as seen from PNC Park:
Two really weird shirts for rappers:
And a Roberto Clemente shirt along with a snazzy gold Pirates shirt to conclude the season:
Other items were a Pirate Parrot doll and Pirates bowls:
A Joel Hanrahan bobblehead and Neil Walker mom and kid jerseys:
A Pirates umbrella:
A Pirates floatation device, sunglasses, and hat:
A kids necklace, visor, cooler bag, and gym bag:
The promotions didn’t get me very excited. It seemed to be the same old stuff except with a different design. The Pirates gym bag and a couple of the shirts are the only promotions that I would be interested in actually keeping for myself.
Piratefest also features game shows that fans can participate in. There was deal or no deal, which is so boring because its old and the prizes have been the same for years:
And Jeopardy, which was painful to watch,
mainly because the three contestants were idiots.
The kid on the left didn’t know Andrew McCutchen’s number. I missed one question: Bob Friend let the league in what category in 1955? There was one other question I didn’t know: What is the Minnesota Twins’ mascot? Every other question I answered aloud to Amy correctly.
Before leaving at 6:40 pm, I played three games. I ended up winning free tickets on two of them. Not bad.
Piratefest is always something I look forward to every year, and its usually the same stuff every year, but it still breaks up the offseason a little bit and gets me looking forward to baseball again.
Today was my final game of the 2011 season at PNC Park. I attended with Olivia and Amy, and unfortunately, there wasn’t any batting practice.
I was worried that I may get shut out because the Pirates players were to meet with fans at the gates, leaving me with just the Reds to get a ball off of.
At 11:30, when the main seating bowl opened, several Pirates were finishing some pre-game tossing before heading out to the gates to meet fans.
I was able to get Tony Watson’s attention as I stood about six rows deep and he fired me a strike for ball #1 when he was finished throwing. Here he is a few seconds after tossing me a ball, walking towards some fans to sign autographs.
I’ve gotten a ball at all 78 games this season – thanks to Tony for extending that streak.
I then headed to the first base side and changed into my Reds gear as the Reds came out to stretch and throw.
When the Reds started throwing, I stood behind Matt Maloney and snagged two balls within a few minutes.
They were overthrows that I corralled here:
However, they were both given back to Maloney, as he needed them to warm up. The first I tossed back, and the second I glove flipped to him. He promised to give the ball back when he was done.
Even though I snagged two balls, it was the same ball on two different occasions, so I’m only going to count it as one ball. I’ve seen lots of ballhawks count similar snags as two, even here at PNC Park, but that’s just padding your stats. You can’t snag the same ball twice. Period. Even if you give it back and get it again.
Unfortunately, some teenager moved in and count another overthrow which took the ball that I was awaiting out of play. It meant that my ball #2 was given away to someone else. Oh well. It goes down in my stats as a snag from Jeremy Horst, one of the least accurate long tossers in the league.
Horst, Maloney and Bill Bray were playing catch, so after Horst finished he left, and Maloney moved to the outfield side to throw at a distance of 60 feet to Bill Bray.
When he was done, he tossed me a ball as a thank you for giving back two baseballs to him.
Olivia was getting a little bit fussy, so we decided to leave before the game even started. It’s been a long season, so rather than being at the ballpark until 4:30, we found some other stuff to do without 28,000 other people.
On the way out, these Pirates players were at the gate:
That’s Pedro Alvarez, Jared Hughes, Mark Strittmatter, Ray Searage, Jason Jaramillo, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jason Grilli from left to right. We didn’t stop to talk or take pictures as there was a ridiculous line waiting to meet them.
Here are today’s baseballs: (only 2 pictured because one was given away)
This will be my last game of the regular season. As for playoff games, you may remember last year I attended a Division Series game in Cincinnati. You’ll have to stay tuned to see if I attend any playoff games this year…
Game: 3 balls (3 thrown)
Season: 422 balls (175 hit, 95 thrown, 88 device, 57 found)
Games: 78 games
Average: 5.41 per game
Career: 1,544 balls
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
There were two new bag checkers at the gate today and they made a huge fuss over the line. First, they made us all back up 15 feet, and then the gate supervisor in white and yellow started getting sarcastic with Ian and Nick because they weren’t backed up an additional foot beyond his arbitrary line.
Anyhow, I got lucky and found three balls in left field today upon running in, and then quickly caught two home runs on the fly. The first was running to my right here:
And the other home run was caught in the front row after I climbed over two bleachers here:
I looked up at the clock. It was 5:01. I have quickly snagged five balls within the first minute. Surely I would reach double digits today.
After a few minutes of inactivity when a lefty was in the cage, I took a few minutes to write the numbers on those five balls before they got all confused.
With only myself, Ian Weir and Nick Pelescak actively competing for balls, and another low crowd, this were looking up.
However, I wouldn’t snag another ball for over an hour.
That’s how bad Cardinals BP was.
Since the Cardinals were so stingy with tossing up baseballs yesterday, when the Pirates left the field, I didn’t even bother changing into my Cardinals shirt. I just threw on my Cardinals hat.
So, I made my way all over the place from 5:01-6:05 trying to snag balls. Center Field, Right Field, Left Field. I thought my streak of three games with at least 8 balls would be snapped. However, in the last group, I made a clean catch of a Tony Cruz home run here:
The tracked down another one of his home runs under neath the Rotunda for ball #7.
Finally, in his last round of cuts, I made yet another clean catch of yet another Tony Cruz home run ball for ball #8.
After batting practice, Amy, Olivia and I made our way over to the All You Can Eat Seats. I had never eaten there before, and since I was hungry I ate three hamburgers, a hot dog, and some popcorn before the game.
During the game we sat here:
But I didn’t come close to snagging anything else.
Here are today’s baseballs:
Oh, and after the game, my check engine light came on, putting in jeopardy my weekend trip unless I can find time to get it fixed between now and then.
Game: 8 balls (5 hit, 3 found)
Season: 398 balls (172 hit, 84 thrown, 87 device, 55 found)
Games: 73 games
Average: 5.45 per game
Career: 1,520 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 3 (maybe 4 if I do an away game this weekend)
Needed to reach goal: 15 (5.0 per game)
Amy pointed out that I forgot to mention that we attended a Renaissance Festival over the weekend. Here’s a picture from that.
Shooting arrows was the highlight because I was surprisingly good at it. Anyone, this really doesn’t tie in at all, unless I made some weird caption like, “Erik Jabs aims for 413 as the season winds down, to break his 2nd best single season mark.”
The Cardinals are in town now and have been really stingy this year at tossing up baseballs, so I was going to need some luck today.
Upon running in, I spotted a ball in the front row. I ran over to snag it when out of no where a ticket seller who works at the windows on the first base side of the Honus Wagner statue shot out of his chair in the handicapped seats and raced down and grabbed the ball. He literally snatched it as I was closing in and not but five feet away from grabbing it. Nick Pelescak was right there too and might have grabbed it also. We both gave him a look like, “Are you serious?” He said he was going to give it to a little kid (even though he had already been there since God knows when and had a whole bag full of baseballs that he had already picked up from the hour of batting practice when there were no fans in the stadium). Nick started saying some stuff to him, and I’ll try and get his name and picture tomorrow. Anyhow, that ball was kind of important because it would end up costing me my first double digit game since June.
Then I went on a hit-ball snagging rampage from the end of the Pirates BP through the Cardinals BP. Every ball I snagged the rest of the day was a batted ball.
I caught a Pirates home run as I walked up the bleachers one after the other and made a pretty difficult clean catch here:
When the Cardinals came out, I snagged two Matt Holliday home runs within 20 second of one another. They may have been back to back.
One was a home run that landed on a staircase and stayed on the steps. I scrambled up the steps and grabbed it with my bare hand as another ballhawk reached for it a split second late with his glove.
The next pitch a ball landed about twelve rows up into the upper bleachers. I raced up and snagged it as a few other ballhawks raced after it
My fifth ball of the day was a home run that I picked up after it bounced off a bleacher. A young ballhawk who was maybe 10 years old tried to rip it from my glove, so after I had possession of it I asked if he’d gotten a ball yet. Nick Pelescak standing nearby said, “Yeah he got one already,” so the ultra aggressive young fan just walked away. There was a lot of random non-regulars there getting lots of baseballs today.
Ball #6 was really ridiculously lucky. A deep home run landed in the wheel chair section and as I was drifting over, it hit something and took a soft ricochet right at me. I snagged it immediately in the air. That was truly lucky.
I was later told by Nick that ball #6 was hit by Albert Pujols.
After spending an unsuccessful round in right field for a group of solely left handed hitters, I made my way back to left field and immediately snagged a ground rule double near the bullpen:
Immediately, I thought it would be pretty cool to get one more ball. I had gotten 8 balls on Saturday and Sunday, and wanted to continue that streak to three games.
By the way, look how EMPTY it was at 6 o’clock!
Anyhhow, ball #8 happened when Tony Cruz launched a deep fly ball that sailed way over my head. Realizing it was headed toward the rotunda. I just turned and ran underneath the rotunda, and when it started bouncing around the concourse, I tracked it down for ball #8.
For good measure, Cruz lifted another home run at the very end of batting practice that I caught right behind this lady’s head.
Amy and I had club seats for today’s game, but I didn’t feel like staying, even though I was on 9 balls and only needed one more for double digits. I sold the seats after we left the park, and then we went and got dinner and I went to the gym. I felt it was a better usage of my time than running all over the ballpark trying for one more ball. Plus, we plan on staying at tomorrow’s game as we have tickets in a section that I’ve never sat in before…
Here are today’s baseballs:
Game: 9 balls (8 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 390 balls (167 hit, 84 thrown, 87 device, 52 found)
Games: 72 games
Average: 5.42 per game
Career: 1,512 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 4 (maybe 5 if I do an away game next weekend)
Needed to reach goal: 23 (5.75 per game)
Sundays usually are rather uneventful. Typically, there isn’t batting practice since its a day game that follows a night game. However, today was another lucky Sunday at PNC Park – both teams would take a full batting practice.
For the first half hour, fans aren’t allowed to enter the seats. For whatever stupid reasoning, season ticket holders are allowed in from Monday-Saturday, but not Sundays. As a result, I stood behind section 141.
And got Ross Ohlendorf to toss me my first ball of the day.
Ohlendorf, a right handed pitcher, was wearing a glove on his right hand and throwing balls into the ball boy left handed. His toss to me was left handed and it just barely cleared the gate. Ross is the friendliest Pirates pitcher when it comes to toss-ups. I really hope he gets his season turned around so he can get some positive momentum going into next year.
Ross tossed up another ball that was right to me, but it hit the gate. An usher walked over and picked up the ball and pocketed it, right in front of six fans who were five feet from the ball.
At 11:30 when the stadium opened, rather than set up shop in left field, I went searching for easter eggs.
I found ball #2 in left field under a bleacher:
Ball #3 along the first base line in the handicapped seats:
And ball #4 a few feet away from my third ball.
I then realized that I was now on 1,499 career baseballs, so I made my way over to the Pirates dugout to try and get a player to toss me #1500. If you read this blog regularly, you may recall my 1,000th ball came last year in Cleveland via the glove trick.
The last Pirates group contained Matt Hague, Gorkys Hernandez, Jason Jaramillo, and Pedro Ciriaco. Once they finished their round, it marked the end of batting practice. On his way into the dugout, I called out to Pedro Ciriaco and asked if he minded tossing me a ball that was directly in his path as he approached. He obliged and flipped me a well worn filthy ball for #1,500.
Here it is:
After batting practice, Amy took this cheesy picture of me and the ball:
Anyhow, moments after I snagged that ball, the Marlins pitchers were finishing up their tosses down the right field line. I threw on my Marlins gear and headed over. It helped that I was *the* only fan there. Not even were any Pirates fans asking for balls. As a result, Clay Hensley threw me ball #6:
and Jose Ceda tossed me ball #7, even though he had seen me get one from Hensley. “You already got one,” he said. “Yes,” I replied, “it’s up to you if you want to give me another one.” Ceda stared at me awkwardly for a moment then threw me the ball.
At 12:00 I headed back to left field and caught a ground rule double off the bat of Jose Lopez here for ball #8.
By the way, there was a special 9-11 logo painted onto the field. Unless you’re under 10 years old, I’m sure we all remember where we were on September 11th 2001. I was a junior in college at Washington & Jefferson and woke up hearing some bewilderment next door. “Those are people jumping from that building!” Someone was yelling. I turned on the TV and watched it all unfold.
Game: 8 balls (1 hit, 4 thrown, 3 found)
Season: 381 balls (159 hit, 83 thrown, 87 device, 52 found)
Games: 71 games
Career: 1,503 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 5 (maybe 6 if I do an away game next weekend)
Needed to reach goal: 32 (6.4 per game)
It was a Saturday, so the gates open an extra half hour early. However, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it, as I didn’t get to snag a ball until 4:50. That was thrown by Alex Presley, pictured at right here:
My second ball of the day was a ground rule double that I snagged here:
A fan in the front row tried to knock it down, but they just slowed it down and it came right to me.
Ball #3 was a glove trick ball that I gave away to another ballhawk who hadn’t gotten one yet.
My fourth ball of the day was a clean catch of an Andrew McCutchen home run ball in section 136. I had to get up on the bleacher to make the catch.
When the Marlins came out, I changed into my Marlins gear and caught a John Buck home run on the fly.
My sixth ball of the day was retrieved using the Cleveland Stick. A ball had landed in the ivy on the ‘S’ in Pirates during the early portion of batting practice. As soon as the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over and knocked it out with the Cleveland stick, and reached in with my hand to pick it up. Pretty simple.
In the mean time, Burke Badenhop spotted me about eight rows back after I had snagged this ball and attempted to toss me a ball, but it ended up short. I could’ve still gotten it, but a younger ballhawk ran by and caught it two rows in front of me. Luckily, Badenhop had another ball in his back pocket that he tossed me for ball #7. This time his throw was right on the money.
My final ball of the day was a towering home run hit by Mike Cameron. I ran to my right, up some steps, and picked the only open row that was available to me and made the clean catch. I had to manuever amongst these stationary fans:
I ended up catching it in the eighth row behind the guy in the gray shirt.
After BP I left, as Amy and Olivia were at home waiting for me.
Game: 8 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 373 balls (158 hit, 79 thrown, 87 device, 49 found)
Games: 70 games
Career: 1,495 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 6
Needed to reach goal: 40 (6.7 per game)