I attended only one out of the final five games of the homestand. Things have been busy lately with a new baby, a tripled workload at work (100 students to 325), and a house to upkeep.
I made sure to attend this game though as Zack Hample would be in attendance. Hample if you don’t know is a New York City ballhawk on his way to snagging 1,000 baseballs this year. He has already attended over 100 games this year and is planning on visiting all 30 major league stadiums this year.
Before the gates opened, we got a picture, taken by Ian Weir:
The man on the left is one of Zack Hample’s clients, I believe his name was David (Zack has a business that charges $500 to attend a game with him), Zack is in the yellow shirt, them Nick Pelescak, Zac Weiss, and myself. The children are David’s.
Once the gates opened, I got on the board early by getting a toss up from Jason Grilli. He’s been with the team for only a short amount of time, so he hasn’t been made anti-fan by Joel Hanrahan yet.
My second ball of the day was a clean catch right behind Ian Weir here:
Ball #3 was a ground rule double that skipped over the fence quickly and off of Ian. He slowed it down and deflected it right to me here.
My fourth ball was another clean catch in the second row of section 136. I had to climb over a bleacher or two to get into position.
When the Brewers came out I got ball #5 off the bat of Ryan Braun. He hit it to the back of section 135, so I scooped it up as it was rolling under the bleachers down towards the front row. One of the ushers started heckling me screaming at me “You just stole a ball from that kid!” and “You’ll get yours.” The kid had already snagged three balls of his own, and he was two rows below where the ball had hit. Since there was a sparse crowd, if I wasn’t there the ball would’ve eventually rolled down to him, but you would’ve thought that I ripped the ball from his hand.
I later went up and confronted the usher (who’s not a regular in left field) and explained that I didn’t steal a ball from anyone. The ball was on the ground when I picked it up. I further pointed out that I gave my sixth ball of the day, which was glove tricked in left field to a young fan in the front row nearby who hadn’t gotten one yet (in the light blue).
The family was ecstatic. The usher, who I guess was upset that I had already gotten too many baseballs possibly realized he overreacted and was happy that I gave one of mine away. I typically always give the glove trick balls away if I have to ask someone to let me in to the front row for access to the ball below.
I was making my way over to center field, and De La Cruz was retrieving a ball. I was above the bullpen and just held my glove up and he threw me a perfect strike. Here he is over in center field.
After BP was over, I took off and went home, stopping off at GetGo later that night to get 27+ gallons of gas for free.
My next game will be 9-5-11. Yeah, it’s basically a 2 week break. I thought about attending 9-3 with Nick in Washington DC, but heard from him that there wasn’t batting practice due to a concert.
I don’t know if I’ll get to too many more road games. I’d like get to most of the few remaining home games at PNC Park and then possibly a playoff game in October. We’ll see.
My goal is 413. I have 11 games left (3 of those are day games – which I’ll leave if there’s no BP). So I need to 57 balls in those 11 games which is 5.2 a game. My average this year is a tad over 5.3. Should make it somewhat challenging.
Game: 7 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 356 balls (149 hit, 75 thrown, 84 device, 48 found)
Games: 67 games
Career: 1,478 balls
Batting practice on a Sunday? It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally it happens.
My day began at 7:20 AM, as I woke up extra early so I could go to the gym before heading to the ballpark. I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time with Amy as soon as batting practice ended.
Our due date is fast approaching. For fun, we offered our guesses on when our baby would be born. I picked July 26. Amy picked July 30th. The baby is due August 9. Neither of us think we’ll make it that far as our baby is measuring up to be a big baby.
The Pirates came out and stretched, and at exactly 11:30, batting practice got underway.
My first ball came rather quickly – it was a clean catch of a homer caught here:
Realizing that there wouldn’t be many home runs hit, (yesterday there were 3) – I made my way over to foul territory in right field and lined myself up behind the Cardinals pitchers, who had come out to warm up. There was virtually no one else around, as everyone stayed in left field trying to catch batted balls.
The strategy paid off as Trever Miller tossed me ball #2 on his way into the dugout,
For the last group, I went back to left field where I offered to glove trick a ball for a young fan. I had the ball in my glove when Euclides Rojas foiled the attempt by throwing his glove at mine, jarring the ball loose.
Rojas marched over and grabbed the ball, then something really weird happened.
He flipped me the ball.
It was the first time Rojas had ever acknowledged me, let alone toss me a ball.
Anyhow, true to my promise, immediately I handed the ball away to the young fan.
Batting practice had finished at noon, so I left too to be with Amy.
Game: 4 balls (1 hit, 3 thrown)
Season: 305 balls (131 hit, 67 thrown, 70 device, 37 found)
Games: 57 games
Career: 1,427 balls
Attendance : 35,402
Amy was working today, so I don’t have any good pictures.
Upon entering the stadium, I found ball #1 about four rows back in left field. It was good to get on the board early, because the last Pirates group did absolutely nothing. Zero home runs.
When the Astros came out, I glove tricked my second ball over by the bullpen.
Most of the Astros pitchers seemed really lazy when it came to shagging, so I was hopeful that I could glove trick a few balls today, but a coach named Suba marched all over the field collecting the balls, as if it was his sole and only purpose with the team.
The first Astros group was weak, but the next group featured Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee along with Jason Michaels, probably the Astros three best BP hitters in that order.
After a couple rounds of going opposite field, Hunter Pence started letting loose and hitting some home runs.
In the span of a minute, I caught three balls cleanly, all on the fly, here:
Ball #3 was hit by Pence. It was basically right at me. I stood up on the bleacher as I made the catch, just out of habit. Moments later he hit another home run that was slightly to my left. I tracked the ball and caught it reaching forward and made the basket catch as several fans turned away, blinded by the sun.
Jason Michaels hopped in the cage and promptly hit a home run which I caught on the fly. Since there was so much action in such a short amount of time, people started noticing me and asking me questions such as how many that was for me, etc. No one gave me a hard time though.
Moments later I snagged another ground rule double, and then finished things off with a clean catch of yet another home run.
I gave away one of my extra decoy balls to a young boy whose father was asking me for ballhawking tips for his son.
I watched the game from the Club Seats.
I picked a great spot for a foul ball. The only thing in front of me was a camera well,
and a wide open row to my right.
But as luck would have it not a single ball would be hit within three sections either way of me.
Game: 8 balls (6 hit, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 280 balls (121 hit, 56 thrown, 64 device, 30 found)
Games: 48 games
Average: 5.83 balls per game
Career: 1,402 balls
Today was the fourth straight sell out game at PNC Park, the first such string of games in the ten year history of the ballpark. Also, the Pirates decided not to take batting practice today, which left just the Astros.
My first ball of the day was a clean catch on the fly in left field. I don’t know who hit it, but Amy got a pic of me labeling it after the fact:
There was a bunch of waiting around,
because the Astros as you may know suck. They are the worst team in baseball. Apart from Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, there’s not much to look forward to in an Astros BP.
My second ball was a scrum ball that I corralled under a bleacher. Here I am after grabbing it:
The ball had a distinctive marking. Do you know who hit it?
Read backwards. Jason Michaels. There is a clear MICHAE and beneath that a PRO (from Pro Model on the bat). This is an ultra rare marking, and I only at least one other one where the player who hit it has his name visible on the ball from the bat.
We returned downtown later on in the day to watch the fireworks on the North Shore.
Here are today’s baseballs:
Game: 2 balls (2 hit)
Season: 272 balls (115 hit, 56 thrown, 63 device, 29 found)
Games: 47 games
Average: 5.78 balls per game
Career: 1,394 balls
Since Amy and I had been in Baltimore the past two days, we decided to attend the Pirates vs Nationals game in Washington DC on our travel day back to Pittsburgh.
We began the day on the pier in Annapolis, where our hotel was located,
and ate lunch at Jimmy John’s, a sandwich shop. I got a turkey sandwich and was grossed out by the weird alfalfa greens that they put on it. I’d never had them, and didn’t want to try them. Gross.
We then went to Washington and Nationals Park.
At the gate, we were first in line, and we ran into Zack Hample, who had made the trip from New York City.
Zack is on a quest to snag 1,000 baseballs in 2011 – and he credited me breaking his record last year (with 544) as a motivational factor in his endeavor.
Upon entering the park, there were no balls to be found as batting practice hadn’t yet begun. I decided to run over to right field,
but found out that it is now closed off until 5:30, thereby negating an hour of batting practice time there.
I went back to left, and noticed a ball in the bullpen, which I attempted to glove trick, but failed three times as I was reeling it in. Jordan Zimmerman and Colin Balester watched in amusement. Zimmerman threw a ball at my glove at one point to mess with me, which actually ended up in a perfect glove trick spot directly below me and to my right.
After failing and having the ball drop and roll away, Zimmerman threw me a ball for my effort.
After that, I had some bad luck, including one clunk off of my glove, as I unnecessarily jumped to catch it. (I was terrified it was going to hit Amy, who was two rows behind me.) Trying to change my luck, even though the Nationals were still batting, I changed into my Pirates gear.
I also met a ballhawk named Alex from New Jersey from mygameballs
and chatted with Zack for a minute or two when there was some down time.
A bit later, I recovered after a few more close calls with this clean catch.
5:30 rolled around, so I ran over to right field. I ran down to the front row and found Ball #4 in the front row.
I also noticed a ball in the gap in right field, so I glove tricked it, this time quickly and successfully for ball #5. I then proceeded to get yelled at by an usher named Beni or Benji or something like that. The same usher later demanded Alex to give away his baseballs because he was getting too many, and actually wasted about three minutes of my time questioning me where he, and that he owed him baseballs. Pretty ridiculous. Especially because I personally watched him pick up at least three around 5:25 before I went over to right field.
I stayed in right field for the rest of BP.
After batting practice, we left and actually got back home just as the game was ending.
Game: 6 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season: 270 balls (113 hit, 56 thrown, 63 device, 29 found)
Games: 46 games
Average: 5.87 balls per game
Career: 1,392 balls (I numbered all the balls wrong yesterday, so the first ball was 1382, which is the one I skipped.)
Today would be the largest crowd ever to witness a game at PNC Park, as 39, 483 would pack the park.
I was second in line behind Nick Pelescak. Zac Weiss, another Pittsburgh ballhawk would be third. There was lots of time to kill, so we stood around and talked a bit.
And played some catch in front of the gate.
What pitch am I throwing below? It has to do with the Red Sox starting pitcher tonight…
When the gates opened, I found a ball in the front row of section 137 to put me on the board.
A bit later in batting practice, a ball hit off of a the groundskeepers vehicle and settled against the wall in foul territory.
It would’ve been an easy snag – just a reach over the fence. So I ran over to get it. Just as I was entering the seating area in foul territory down the line, a Pirate sliced a line drive of home run distance into the seats. I was in the right place in the right time, as there wasn’t another fan within 100 feet. I walked over and picked it up for ball #2.
In the meantime, the groundskeeper picked the ball up as I was making my way down the stairs.
My third ball was a ground rule double that bounced over the fence here, and nearly took out pitching coach Ray Searage, who was walking over to the fence to give a ball away.
I wouldn’t snag another ball until 5:30.
At 5:30, the center field and right field seats opened, and I found a ball on the stairs in right field for #4 of the day.
Moments later, David Ortiz blasted a ball way over my head. I could tell it was going to carry, so I ran up the stairs towards the top of the Clemente Wall, hoping the ball would settle in a seat or empty row. It hit a seat and completely lost all momentum, and I picked it up a moment later for #5.
In the next group, I noticed a ball had landed in the ivy in center field that might have been reachable.
I made my way down the stairs and as I was under the Clemente Wall walking to center field, I heard WHHHAPPP – the sound of a ball hitting the concrete. A ball had cleared the Clemente Wall completely and was about twenty feet in the air above my head, as it rebounded off of the back wall. I jumped up and snagged it for ball #6.
‘Wow, that was lucky,’ I thought.
Not but fifteen seconds later, the same thing happened. Completely obstructed from the path of the ball, another home run cleared everything, hit a Red Sox fan, and deflected directly to me for ball #7.
Two completely lucky snags in a matter of seconds. I was later told it was Jarrod Saltalamacchia who hit those two balls.
In the meantime, another ballhawk snagged that ball in the ivy in center field. Nothing really happened in center field, except David Ortiz sauntered out to receive the adulation of Red Sox nation.
I spent the last fifteen minutes in left field, and this was the scene.
There was no where to go. I stayed over towards the foul pole where I had at least a half row of range, but no balls came withing fifty feet of me.
After batting practice, I left PNC Park for a bit. I checked the bushes to baseballs, but didn’t find any.
I also took one of the best pictures I’ve ever taken after looking through those bushes.
The Pirates ended up winning the game, setting the stage for a possibly sweep of the mighty Boston Red Sox tomorrow.
After the game Amy and I found a secluding spot in a park during the firework show and
Anyway, before heading home we stopped off at a Giant Eagle and picked up a few snacks for a possible road trip next week… It will probably be the last extended road trip for awhile because… well, we’re so pregnant.
And tomorrow is the baby shower!
Game: 7 balls (5 hit, 2 found)
Season: 251 balls (101 hit, 53 thrown, 60 device, 28 found)
Games: 43 games
Average: 5.84 balls per game
Career: 1,373 balls
The Red Sox were in town, bringing their well traveled fan base into PNC Park.
I got to the park early, and waited at the gate until I saw the Pirates pitchers begin to take batting practice.
When it got underway, I headed down to the Riverwalk and searched through the weeds, just in case either team took early batting practice.
There was nothing. And no luck on the Riverwalk today.
When the gates opened, there were already seven people in the bleachers with guest passes, so the Easter Eggs were long gone.
In about the first minute of batting practice, I caught a home run on the fly in section 136. Here I am labeling it:
My second ball also came during the first five minutes, and it was a glove trick ball. After adjusting the band twice, I reeled it in.
The Pirates only hit until 5:06, which is a growing trend this year. They’ve been ending between 5:03-5:06 lately.
During the Boston Red Sox first group, which featured a bunch of lefties, I was able to snag an Adrian Gonzalez ground rules double in the left field corner.
It bounced into the first row in the aisle where I picked it up.
Then BP slowed way down.
For the last group of Red Sox batters, I stood on the Clemente Wall in right field, where I caught a home run on the fly. I was checking the rooftops below the wall for baseballs (which occasionally there are. Its rare, but it happens), when I caught the track of a fly ball. I was just re-entering the seats, and ran to my left and made a snag on the move. I caught it in front of the guy in the black shirt:
Amy and I left right after batting practice.
Game: 4 balls (3 hit, 1 device)
Season: 244 balls (96 hit, 53 thrown, 60 device, 26 found)
Games: 42 games
Average: 5.81 balls per game
Career: 1,366 balls