This was the Pirates first game against the Rockies of the season, as the previous night had been rained out. I was looking forward to this game because 49 year old Jamie Moyer would be pitching for the Rockies, and I had purchased a ticket directly behind the Rockies dugout.
Batting practice got off to a slow start for me. In fact, I didn’t snag anything for the first 20 minutes. After coming up short on three different balls, I ranged to my left on a Michael McKenry home run ball and caught it on the fly here:
It was a milestone ball as it was my #1,600th.
Later, I called out to Evan Meek, who tossed a ball in my direction. Fellow ballhawk Ian Weir, who was two rows in front of me had it tip off of his glove, and it bounced right to me.
Ball #3 was a clean catch on the fly of a Yamaico Navarro homer here:
My fourth ball of the Pirates BP was a ground rule double hit by light hitting infielder Josh Harrison near the foul pole:
That was it for the Pirates BP, as they wrapped things up shortly after 5.
When the Rockies began hitting, the pitchers still were warming up in right field, so there were no players to shag balls. I used this time to make their job a little easier by glove tricking ball #5.
Carlos Gonzalez wandered over and tossed about 9 balls into the stands. I was about to glove trick an easy ball when he began walking towards it. Since he was making an effort to retrieve it, I didn’t use the glove trick, even though I could’ve quickly and easily snagged it and saved him the walk over. CarGo came over, picked the ball up, and handed it to me for ball #6.
Ball #7 was another simple glove trick in left.
When the pitchers finally made their way over, Rex Brothers tossed me ball #8, and motioned to me to give it to a little kid standing a few feet to my left, so I did.
Ball #9 was a foul ball hit by Troy Tulowitzki. He yanked it down the line into the lower seats. It was already like 5:35, and there were no fans over there. No one seemed to notice or care. So I ran over into foul ground and grabbed it.
I was on a hot streak. I had nine balls and Rockies BP was just getting underway. But, weirdly, I didn’t snag anything else during batting practice, even though this was the crowd shortly before 6 PM at the end of BP:
Before the game started, I waited by the bullpen for Jamie Moyer to come out. There, I asked catching Coach Jerry Weinstein to toss up a ball that was sitting in the bullpen, and he obliged for ball #10.
I then watched Jamie Moyer toss 75 mph heaters:
And then watched him do it later, in the game from my seat.
This was my section:
And the view:
I was just a few rows behind where all the players enter the dugout when they run off the field. The location was perfect, because in the third inning, Casey McGehee chopped a ball in front of the plate that Chris Nelson fielded and threw to Todd Helton for the third out. When Helton ran off the field, he spotted me in my bright Rockies jersey and tossed me ball #11.
It had a nice dirt spot on it from where McGehee had pounded it into the ground. I also noticed a little bit of scuffing. Was Moyer doctoring the ball? Its tough to say, but he kept the Pirates off balance all night, pitching 6 innings and giving up 1 run. Not bad for a 49 year old.
The game itself was probably one of the more exciting ones of the year, as the lead exchanged leads several times in the late innings before the Pirates prevailed.
I got my Pirates season tickets in the mail today.
I love how every spring I get so pumped when I see this package.
When I got home Amy said that a package was waiting for me at the door. She said she thought it was my season tickets. She proceeded to say that she’s never seen me run so fast in her life.
I opened it up and laid out the contents. Three season ticket books, with 81 tickets each, for a grand total of 243 tickets, as well as a few inserts:
The inserts I just discarded, as I was most interested as to what was inside the season ticket books.
There was the all important season ticket holders card, that allows me into batting practice before the general public:
Then I started leafing through the book. The first page has season ticket holder and individual game pricing. Most frustrating – additional tickets cost $9 each, rather than $5 like it has always been in the past. (My season tickets cost $4.93 a ticket, I don’t see why extras shouldn’t cost the same amount.)
The next page features the Pirates schedule along with the Promotional Schedule.
The next pages outline the season ticket benefits along with the ticket exchange program. The Pirates have one of the best ticket exchange program, allowing fans to exchange tickets to 71 of the 81 home games.
But anyhow, the most important part is the tickets themselves and the ticket design. This year’s design features four Pirates players in color, while the background is in gray.
Andrew McCutchen was first:
Then Joel Hanrahan:
and Jose Tabata:
I’m still not sure if I like the tickets or not. They seem rather dull. I don’t know, I’d rate them as mediocre. Maybe they’ll grow on me.
The letter reads:
While it has been a relatively mild winter here in Pittsburgh, even warmer weather and the 126th season of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball are both right around the corner. The beginning of Spring Training games in sunny Bradenton Florida means that Opening Day at PNC Park is less than one month away.
We are extremely excited to begin the 2012 season. Last season gave us all a taste of how electric PNC Park can be as we battled for the division lead through the end of July. Our team learned valuable lessons last season and is determined to execute at a championship level for 162 games in 2012. We are extremely happy that you will be part of the excitement and fun that together we will create at PNC Park in 2012.
Enclosed you will find your season tickets for the 2012 season, which is packed with great games and promotions. The season starts off with a bang as we host our in state rivals and Eastern Division Champion Philadelphia Phillies for a three game set beginning on Opening Day, Thursday April 5. The rest of the season features exciting matchups against our NL Central foes, including the defending World Series Champion St Louis Cardinlas and the Central Division Champion Milwaukee Brewers, and exciting interleague visits from the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins. Plus, we also have some great promotions lined up, including an exciting Summer Concert Series featuring Boyz II Men, Daughtry, Styx, and Lifehouse.
On behalf of the entire Pirates organization, thank you for your dedication and support of Pirates baseball. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday April 5 at 1:35 PM as we officially get the 2012 season started.
What do you all think of the ticket designs?
Are your team’s better?
If you’re looking for the shirt I’m giving away, I’ll try and post it soon.
As many of you know, I am from Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Pirates are my team. As such, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog entry to their 2012 preview, rather than lumping them in with a division preview. In case you missed my division previews, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, AL West and NL Central preview by clicking on the links provided.
I’ve decided to post this preview now, on the eve of the Pirates first grapefruit league game – tomorrow vs Toronto.
The Pirates were in first place in late July last year before everything fell apart. A blown call by Jerry Meals at the plate in the 19th inning of a game in Atlanta seemed to trigger a monumental collapse, as the Pirates finished the season with a 19-43 record.
The National League Central is a weaker division in 2012, having seen the departures of its two best hitters via free agency; Albert Pujols from the Cardinals to the Angels and Prince Fielder from the Brewers to the Tigers.
Let’s see what the Pirates have heading into the season.
The catching position was a bit of a mess last year for the Pirates. They used EIGHT different catchers last year. Michael McKenry received the most at bats, but struggled by and large, hitting .222. Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, Jason Jaramillo, Dusty Brown, Eric Fryer, Matt Pagnozzi, and Wyatt Torregas also saw time at catcher in 2011.
To add stability, general manager Neil Huntington added catcher Rod Barajas during the offseason.
Barajas has been a durable major league catcher throughout his career and brings power to the table. His troublesome spot is hit batting average and on base percentage. On the whole, this is an upgrade over what the Pirates had last year.
Fox has seen time in the majors before, playing most recently with the Orioles last year. He is a career .237 hitter in the big leagues with 20 home runs in 489 at bats. He’s got some power. He has also had years in the minor leagues where he’s hit 21, 24, 25, and 31 home runs. He’s got more pop, so I personally hope that he makes the team over McKenry, just from a batting practice perspective. I’ve seen the guy hit in BP in Baltimore. He does very well in BP. He can also play first base.
Last year at first base, the Pirates had Derrek Lee for the last two months, who took over for an inept Lyle Overbay, who was ultimately released. Lee broke his wrist and missed time, but did have a good month with the Pirates, hitting .337 with 7 homers in 101 at bats. The Pirates wanted him back, but Lee snubbed the city of Pittsburgh and turned down the Pirates arbitration offer, hoping to play for a ‘better’ team or get more money. He’s still currently unemployed, which should please many Pirates fans.
So without Lee, the Pirates are turning to plan B. At first base this year, there will be a platoon situation with Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee.
When looking at the splits, McGehee, acquired by the Pirates for Jose Veras over the winter hit just .169 against lefties in 2011. That defies convential wisdom, since he is a right handed batter. In his career, he is a .261 hitter vs lefies, so hopefully ’11 was an aberration.
Both Jones and McGehee are coming off of down years. McGehee hit .223 with 13 home runs last season. In 2009 he hit .301 with 16 homers, and .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBIs in 2010. He has reported to camp much lighter than last season, which could result in better athleticism and a better season.
Jones burst onto the scene in 2009 with 21 homers in 314 at bats and followed it up with another 21 homer season in 592 at bats in 2010. Last year he lost his way a bit, hitting 16 in 423 at bats. Hit batting average was also a career low .243.
My thoughts about this platoon? I think it’s a slight upgrade over last year. Overbay was just terrible for the first three months of the season. If the Jones/McGehee tandem can hit .260/30/100 while they play the 1B position collectively – it’ll be huge.
Third base was a major problem area for the Buccos last year. Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates #1 draft pick, and #2 overall was a complete bust. He looked completely lost at the plate and his season was a disaster. He was hurt with a strained quad, and then was demoted to the minors. The Pirates once envisioned Alvarez as a guy that could hit 30-40 homers by taking advantage of the short porch in right field at PNC Park. Alvarez certainly has the power – I’ve seen him launch bomb after bomb over the right field wall in batting practice, but has had problems mentally and with conditioning.
Last season the Pirates relied on Josh Harrison to fill the void at third while Alvarez was out. Harrison was a good replacement, but he is just that – a replacement level player.
During the offseason, the Pirates let Ronny Cedeno walk, disappointed that the shortstop never reached his full potential. Cedeno was often distracted and not always focused on the game. As a result, he often had lapses on both sides of the ball and often times found himself in the manager’s doghouse.
Huntington signed Clint Barmes to take Cedeno’s spot as the starting shortstop. Barmes is a sound defender and an okay hitter. He hit .244 last year with 12 homers – no where near his career high of 23 homers in 2009. However, 12 actually was his second best home run season. A lot of fans are expecting a lot of power from Barnes. I would advise them not to be too optimistic. If Barnes can give the Pirates .250 with 15 homers, we should all take it. By the way, Cedeno hit 2 homers with a .249 average last year, so Barmes represents a slight upgrade.
In the outfield, the Pirates are set in left field with Alex Presley in left, Andrew McCutchen in center, and Jose Tabata in right. The fourth outfielder position will go to Nate McLouth. Last year, the Pirates had Ryan Ludwick/Jose Tabata/Alex Presley in left for most of the season, and a failed Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz platoon in right field.
McCutchen is the face of the franchise. Last year he hit just .259 with 23 homers – perhaps pressing a bit to jump start the anemic offense. McCutchen has a new stance in 2011 – an open one – and hopes that it will help him stay on the ball better.
Jose Tabata was signed to a six year contract during the 2011 season despite playing just a year in the big leagues. Many fans question his age – he is listed as 23 – and power – career high in the big leagues is 4 (in the minors his best HR year was 8).
Nate McLouth will receive plenty of at bats as the team’s fourth outfielder. He was an All Star for the Pirates in 2008 before being traded away for Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke (all of whom are still with the Pirates.) McLouth was awful in Atlanta. He hit .198 and .228 there with virtually no power. Even seeing him in batting practice was painful. It was like watching a high schooler hit.
The Pirates most important part of their team in regards to their success will be their starting pitching. Last season, the Pirates were in first place or in contention for much of the first half because their starting pitching was over achieving. The second half, the starting pitching crumbled, as did the Pirates season.
This year, the Pirates brought in AJ Burnett to be the ace. They are paying him $13 million over 2 seasons. Fans in Pittsburgh were excited. It’s been a long time since we had a big name starting pitcher, even if Burnett had struggled a bit the last few seasons. Burnett’s arrival was going to bump one of the Pirates pitchers from the rotation and create a competition for a rotation spot – likely between Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens. However, it never happened, as Burnett bunted a ball off of his face, breaking an oribital bone.
He’s now out for 8-12 weeks, and the Pirates don’t expect him back until June. Terrible luck.
Without Burnett, the Pirates will look to another new starter in their rotation to help right the ship. Erik Bedard was brought in via free agency to give the Pirates depth. Bedard has had some success in his career, but is often injured. He’s only pitched over 150 innings in his ten year career twice. Last season he went a combined 5-9 with a 3.62 ERA and 125 K’s in 129 innings for the Mariners and Red Sox. He brings the strikeout to a rotation that often pitched to contact last year.
James McDonald was acquired two years ago from the Dodgers for Octavio Dotel. McDonald was 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA last year with 142 K’s for the Pirates last year. He struggled at the outset of the season, but was one of the Pirates better starters late in the season. I think he is the most likely to have a breakout season in 2012.
Charlie Morton was a complete surprise in 2011. He was 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA in 2010. Last year, he was ace-like. He went 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA and induced ground ball after ground ball. He became nicknamed ‘Ground Chuck.’ He LED the National League in home run ratio – allowing just 0.3 homers per nine innings. Morton had hip surgery in the offseason, and is participating in Spring Training, but is a few days behind the other Pirates pitchers. It stands to reason that he likely will open the season with the club, but may start out as the team’s fifth starter just as a precaution.
Jeff Karstens was another complete surprise last year. Karstens bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation in 2009 and 2010, posting losing records and ERA’s of 5.42 and 4.92. When an injury to Ross Ohlendorf gave him a chance last year, Karstens ran with it. He never stopped. He was the Pirates ace last season, often among the top 5 in the National League in Earned Run Average. He finished up the season at 3.38. It will be very interesting to see what Karstens does to follow up his breakout campaign.
Kevin Correia was an All Star in 2011, but the completely tanked. He finished with a 4.79 ERA, but tanked it in the second half, becoming injured and posting a 7.23 ERA. He also could not perform at PNC Park. His ERA at home was 7.71 with a 2-8 record. To me, if Burnett would’ve stayed healthy, he was most likely to be demoted from the rotation to a long relief role in the bullpen. However, Correia gets a chance to prove that he belongs in April and May in 2012.
Brad Lincoln, the Pirates #1 pick in 2006 serves as insurance if a starter gets hurt. He has a minor league option left and will likely begin the season in the minors. I know hindsight is 20/20, but guess who was taken after Brad Lincoln in the draft? Clayton Kershaw, Tim Linecum, Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Perez.
The bullpen looks pretty set. Joel Hanrahan will close games.
Evan Meek, returning from an injury in 2011, will likely be the set up man. Meek’s injury hurt the team last year, as the team struggled to find someone to be successful in the set up role.
Chris Resop could serve as the 7th inning guy if he can be consistent. Rounding out the bullpen would be Jason Grilli, Daniel McCutchen, and Tony Watson. Daniel Moskos or Chris Leroux could also be in the mix.
The bullpen was very solid last year for the Bucs. It looks to be the same in 2012.
So now it’s time for a prediction.
Taking into account the losses and using the stat WAR (wins above replacement):
Paul Maholm, Ronny Cedeno, Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick, Jose Veras, Xavier Paul, Matt Diaz and Ryan Doumit are attributed with 6.6 wins. Meaning that they were worth 6.7 wins more than a typical replacement player. Maholm was most valuable with a WAR of 2.6.
The Pirates have 6 new players:
AJ Burnett, Erik Bedard, Rod Barajas, Casey McGehee, Nate McLouth, and Clint Barmes . Those six are worth 7.1 wins. Clint Barmes was most valuable at 2.9 WAR in 2011. McGehee was -1.0. Burnett was worth 1.1, although he had a down year.
On paper, the Pirates look like they should go 73-89, a one win improvement from 2012.
That’s not what you want to hear though. That’s not what I want to hear. So, I’m going to get away from the stats and project that Andrew McCutchen improves over a bit of a junior slump, and that Evan Meek returns to his dominant 2010 self, and that Pedro Alvarez finally breaks out.
My prediction is 81-81, which will bring an end to 19 seasons of losing, and mark the Pirates first winning season since 1992.
2012 Statistical Projections (from baseball yearbook. Avg-HR-Rbi)
C Rod Barajas .233-21-63
1B Garrett Jones .247-18-66
2B Neil Walker .278-11-68
3B Pedro Alvarez .219-5-32 (Alvarez isn’t even a starter in the BY projections)
3B Casey McGehee .243-16-74
SS Clint Barmes .253-14-5
LF Alex Presley .291-9-43
CF Andrew McCutchen .262-20-77
RF Jose Tabata .278-5-32
SP Jeff Karstens 10-12, 3.77 ERA, 177 IP, 110 K
SP Charlie Morton 9-13, 4.57 ERA, 167 IP, 130 K
SP James McDonald 10-12, 4.14 ERA, 185 IP, 159 K
SP Erik Bedard 6-8, 3.35 ERA, 116 IP, 115 K
SP Kevin Correia 10-10, 5.01 ERA, 147 IP, 92 K
SP AJ Burnett 12-12, 5.19 ERA, 186 IP, 163 K
RP Joel Hanrahan 2.81 ERA, 35 saves, 67 IP, 74 K
RP Evan Meek 2.54 ERA, 3 saves, 64 IP, 55 K
The season basically rests on if Alvarez can finally perform or not. No pressure Pedro.
What are your thoughts on how the Buccos will finish? I think they’ll finish 4th.
There’s only 34 days until opening day, and 1 day (TOMORROW) until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). And, just 2 more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.
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
It definitely wasn’t a good day for ballhawks. Before the rest of the stadium opened at 5:30, only one pair of pitchers threw. That’s it. It was Bronson Arroyo and another Reds player. When they were done, they threw their baseballs into the stands – which were quickly retrieved and pocketed by ushers.
Luckily, an usher had found two baseballs in center field and tossed one to Ian Weir, who was closing in on his 100th lifetime baseball, and me. The ball was soaked, but it didn’t matter – I was on the board.
There was a ball on the grass near the Reds dugout which was picked up by the head groundskeeper as the groundscrew took the tarp off the field. It was obviously soaked. He was pulling the tarp off of the infield with his co-workers and had the baseball in his other hand, looking at it.
Then he glanced up into the stands.
I was basically the only one around, and I was half way up in the lower seating bowl. I held up my glove. He threw the ball in my direction off balance, kind of like a third baseman throws a bunt that he is charging and picking up barehanded.
I only stayed until 6PM. I was content with two baseballs. I only really came down to the stadium because I had 17 extra tickets and I just figured I’d get the shirts by getting the tickets scanned. Plus, I wanted to go be with Amy and Olivia!
Here are today’s baseballs, soaked – they are staying in my garage:
Game: 2 balls (2 thrown)
Season: 411 balls (173 hit, 88 thrown, 87 device, 56 found)
Games: 76 games
Average: 5.41 per game
Career: 1,533 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)