The Pirates returned home to start a six game home stand. Looking at this stretch of 6 games, I expected to put up big numbers. First, all of the games except for Sunday would have 4:30 gate opening times, giving me more opportunities to snag baseballs. Second, the Penguins had a win or go home playoff game, and since seemingly everyone is a Penguins fan, most Pittsburghers were likely to attend that game or watch it on tv. Also, perennial top 3 mygameballs ballhawk Nick Pelescak will not be in attendance as he is attending a wedding out of the country. So, more BP, decreased competition = more balls. That wouldn’t be the case though.
Also, imagine the look on my face when I was driving to work Friday morning and checked the weather for this homestand.
What a rough break. Hopefully the patterns chance. I’m really looking forward to Monday and Tuesday…
Wait, they got worse, now Pittsburgh may get 6 inches of snow Monday.
So, today was important because it was likely the only BP I would get for the entire home stand. There’s no BP Sundays usually, Monday’s game will get snowed/rained out, forcing a double header on Tuesday, which would eliminate BP, and Wednesday is a day game, so likely no BP.
Anyway, this is what happened for the first half hour:
And don’t forget this:
Nothing happened! It was brutally slow. Andrew McCutchen and Rod Barajas, the two best righties for BP homers must’ve hit in the first group before the gates opened. I only had one chance for a home run, off the bat of Michael McKenry, but completely lost it in the sun and didn’t end up close to it. If you come to BP at PNC Park, bring your shades. I had glasses and they still didn’t help:
Bullpen coach Herbie Andrade must’ve felt bad for me, because he graciously threw me a ball as the Pirates ran off the field at the end of their BP at exactly 5:00.
I caught it here.
Then, there was a lull as the Cardinals didn’t start hitting until 5:15-5:20. When they did, I used the glove trick in left field to snag ball #2.
When the rest of the park opened up, I headed over to center field and cleanly caught a Carlos Beltran home run on the fly here:
And a few minutes later caught another home run on the fly in the same row. The only difference is that this time I had to jump to make the catch:
On a side note, most of the Cardinals pitchers were being complete a-holes. I think they like playing the ‘heel,’ or bad guy. Jaime Garcia for example, snagged a ball near the warning track and acted like he was going to toss it up. He went back and forth pointing at two sections in center field to elicit noise so he could decide where to throw the ball. After getting the crowd to be rather noisy he approvingly shook his head yes, then turned and fired the ball in towards the field. On my way back over to left field, I heard one of the ushers mutter, “What a jerk!”
I spent the last 15 minutes of BP in left field. Look how crowded it was at the very end of batting practice:
Anyway, we decided it was too hot for Olivia and left before the first pitch (78 degrees and sunny was the game time weather conditions). We did come away with a few nice shirts though:
Here’s today’s baseballs:
Game: 4 Balls
Season: 44 Balls
Lifetime: 1,588 Balls
I got to PNC Park at around 10:45 AM, and the Pirates were already hitting. Such an early start meant that both teams would likely take batting practice. Sunday day games have always been a bit different, because there’s no season ticket holder time. The Riverwalk opens at 11 AM (2.5 hours early), and the bullpen to the lower seating bowl always opens at 11:30 AM. The rest of the gates open at noon. It’s always been done that way.
This Sunday was different.
Security came out at 10:50 AM, right on time and checked bags and unlocked the gates. However, no ticket scanners or gate supervisors showed up.
The gate supervisor showed a little bit before 11:30, and the gates to the Riverwalk opened at 11:30, that’s 2 hours before first pitch.
I went to the Pirates A to Z guide (link) and lifted this little nugget:
GATES OPEN Gates open one and one half hours (1 1/2) prior to game time (Monday through Sunday) and two hours on Opening Day. The Riverwalk will open two (2) hours before weekday (Monday-Friday) games and two and one half hours (2 1/2) prior to weekend (Saturday-Sunday) games.
Somone messed up. Maybe the A to Z guide isn’t current. But since bags were checked at 10:50 AM by security, and the gates unlocked ( then security left for 20 minutes, then came back at 11:30) makes me believe that not everyone is on the same page. Hopefully this gets ironed out because otherwise attending Sunday games aren’t really worth it for ballhawks.
It ended up basically ruining BP. We missed all of the Pirates and almost all of the Phillies BP.
I stood here during the Phillies portion of BP from 11:30-noon.
Since it was the only vantage point to watch BP for a half hour, there were lots of fans standing around in this spot. Three home run balls hit nearby, but I couldn’t get close enough to any of them. One of them I should’ve caught, but I was out of position attempting to reach a ball that was inside the gate with the Cleveland stick. It was out of reach anyhow.
When the park finally opened at noon, I went to center field and found two baseballs. The ushers are being kind and not confiscating all of the balls. Since I got the only two balls in the section, the usher asked me if I could give one to an elderly ballhawk, which I did.
After finding the balls in center field, I searched right field, but found nothing, so I spent the only 10-15 minutes of batting practice that I got to see in left field.
Of course it was super crowded.
Besides the two Easter Eggs, I got nothing else.
Before the gates opened, Zac Weiss, Nick and I played some catch across the street.
When the gates opened, nothing really went my way. After being shut out for a long while, I got Chris Leroux to toss me my first ball of the day.
Ball#3 was a ball that my glove collided with another ballhawk’s glove. He drifted back and we both were about to make the catch when our gloves clanged together. The ball popped out and landed on the bleacher, where I caught it off the bounce with my throwing hand.
Ball #4 was a scrum ball. There was a kid that was also in pursuit of the ball. I picked it up and flipped it to him:
When the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over to center field, as the other ballhawks all ran up to the right field wall and was able to find 2 balls there.
I didn’t get anything during the Phillies portion, and spent most of it in right field.
You may recall, I blogged that the Pirates were having a pre-Opening day workout and batting practice. I blogged about it here.
Initially, I thought that it would be for season ticket holders only, as the email was sent under the guise of ‘SEASON TICKET HOLDER NEWS,’ but alas, it was free and open to the public, so it turned into what I would liken to a Kids Sunday game.
I had to work until 2:35, so I didn’t even get down to the park until sometime after 3.
And check out a few minor changes. Diamond Pizza put a sitting area outside on the concourse beneath the left field GA bleachers.
And a video game station has been installed under the left field bleachers – moved from behind section 101 which is going to be a fancy bar.
When the Pirates started hitting, a ball rolled near the bullpen door, so I went to glove trick it. It was going to be nice to be on the board. However, as soon as I took my glove out, a supervisor raced over and told me that it wasn’t allowed. I have done the glove trick without incident since 2009 at PNC Park, so this was deflating. I snagged 89 balls last year with the glove trick alone, so my stats may take a big hit this year. Later on, I watched as the same supervisor (whom I have never seen before, I should also mention- all of the supervisors from last year where great) raced for and scrummed a ball, which I thought wasn’t right – he gave it away, but still.
I got shut out for a long time, which was frustrating. There were no ushers working today, so lots of fans were standing on bleachers and sitting on seat backs, which is far more dangerous than me lowering my glove 6 feet.
So, overall, the whole thing was a disappointment.
I ended up moving towards the bullpen where it was more empty, and I came up with a Casey McGehee ball. It bounced into the seats and took a generous roll right to me. I just had to pick it up underneath the bleacher as fans from all directions closed in.
I should also mention that I have never seen such aggression from fans in the stands at PNC Park. There were people diving on concrete, diving up the stairs for balls, etc.
Another disappointment was that all of center field and right field was off limits. Boo! So when Pedro Alvarez was up, I just watched helplessly as he peppered the center field seats.
By the way, how much longer does Pedro get before the Pirates ship him out to the minors? His spring was awful. He strikes out 1 out of 3 plate appearances. If Matt Hague hits, I could really see Pedro as the odd man out and Hague could be in the 1B/3B platoon mix rather than being a bench player.
Anyhow, I got another ball from Jeff Karstens near the end of BP. Karstens flipped it to some kids in the front row, who fought over it and totally missed it. The ball bounced to me a few rows back. I picked it up, and gave it to the girl in the pink:
That was a lucky toss up, it was hard to get any players attention during BP because any time they shagged a ball a chorus of ‘HERE HERE HERE HERE’ rang out from the front row.
At 4:40, the Pirates stopped hitting, and the supervisors shooed everyone out of left field, telling the fans that the Phillies had opted for a closed practice. Thanks Charlie Manuel.
Rather than stand on the Riverwalk outside the stadium while the numerous Phillies lefties hit, we left.
A crappy start to the 2012 season for sure. Hopefully things will pick up, next week at this time, I will have attended 8 MLB games if my plans/ambitions hold.
Game: 2 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 2 balls
Games: 1 games
Average: 2.00 per game
Career: 1,546 balls
2012 by stadium:
PNC Park: 2 balls in 1 game (1,157 total in PNC career)
I went to PNC Park yesterday with Amy and Olivia. Amy had an orientation for the 2012 season, and Olivia and I walked around the exterior of the stadium, and took note of what subtle changes we could see. In two days, this place is going to be packed, but today, it was a ghost town.
We began at the corner of Federal Street and General Robinson and walked towards the Clemente bridge. The Pirates main offices are located there on the right:
We stopped at the Center Field gate and peered in, but there wasn’t much to see. It looked like it does on Sunday mornings when there is no BP.
The Clemente Bridge was a sight for sore eyes. Beside proposing to Amy on it on Valentine’s Day, it’s also the place of many pre-game throwing sessions with fellow ballhawks.
Did you notice all of the leaves on the trees? The tulips are in full bloom too.
By the way, while we’re talking about trees… Check out the General Robinson side of PNC Park.
All of those trees, every one, is DEAD. I thought for sure they would be replaced after last year. Am I the only one that has noticed? They are decaying, moldy, and all obviously dead and dried out.
Anyhow, Olivia and I made our way to the left field gate and peered in.
It looks pretty much the same except for a large Rally Pass booth. In 2012, when you spin the prize wheel, you’ll pick your prizes up right there. No more walking over to section 101 to get your prize. That area has been made into a bar. You’ll really notice it when you walk up the stairs from the Clemente Wall area to the main concourse. The open air above your heads on the stairs is now covered by a floor which makes up most of the bar.
Also, the Pirates, replaced an old crappy bland scoreboard that announced upcoming games with a more classy looking ‘Home of the Pirates’ sign above the Center Field / Clemente statue gate:
It was time to go down to the Riverwalk.
Oh wait, it was closed.
Oh well, we went down anyhow.
But the riverwalk really was closed. Fences had been erected in the spot where PNC ballhawks usually do pre-BP ballhawking, waiting for balls to bounce out:
The fences were put in place because the riverwalk was being replaced. New cement slabs were being put in.
We walked back, took in the Clemente bridge from below:
And walked across the Clemente bridge to get a better view of the stadium:
One thing that you may not be able to tell in the picture above is that the tops of all of the trees in the picnic area and along the riverwalk for that matter had been cut off:
This was done undoubtedly to keep the city skyline unobstructed.
We walked back and around to the Mazeroski statue,
and passed the right field garages which were all opened and reeked of smoke.
There had been a fire in the laundry room. Cleaners had washed mop heads and dryer sheets and a fire broke out. There were charred uniforms in the garage. The uniforms were for workers, chefs and the like – I didn’t see any player uniforms that were burned. I learned all of this from a boss who was on his cell phone talking about the insurance, and that they had a $100,000 deductible, and that they were having a fire restoration team come in, yadda yadda yadda.
It was nice to be back at the park after months away.
There’s only 2 more days until Opening Day, and tomorrow there is an Opening Day ‘preview’ batting practice, so I should be snagging my first baseball of the 2012 season sometime tomorrow afternoon. Check back soon! And also, you have until Sunday to win a Justin Morneau shirt!
One of the perks that the Pirates offer is the opportunity to take batting practice inside of the PNC Park batting cages. The Pirates usually have an outdoor field day, where fans take batting practice on the field – I participated in that in September. In the winter, they invite the fans to take BP in the cages.
I took two rounds of BP of 10 pitches each. I went 20 for 20 hitting every ball that I faced.
Here’s a video of my second round:
There were two cages, one for grown ups which was set to fast speed, and one that flipped balls up there at about 30 mph for the kids. I went into the fast one of course.
The only thing I didn’t like was that my follow through kept hitting the net, making it a bit awkward.
After hitting Amy, Olivia and I went up into the hall of fame club to eat some light refreshments. Daniel McCutchen and Brad Lincoln were there, but I didn’t go up and say anything to them, especially since McCutchen seems to dislike the serious ballhawks.
As a benefit to being a season ticket holder, I was invited to take batting practice on the field at PNC Park on Sunday. The Pirates were out of town, so the BP was with other fellow season ticket holders. We we able to choose from Friday, Saturday or Sunday. I chose Sunday during the Steeler game, because I was hoping that I would be in a really small group and get more time to hit in the batting cage. That wouldn’t really be the case as other fans had the same mentality.
The bad part about going to PNC Park during a Steeler game is trying to find a place to park, and then walking to the stadium through the parking lots and dealing with drunk Steeler fans. Two fans directed comments towards me and my Pirates gear. The first fan said, “Dude, put the bats away, you’re scaring everyone!” I think he may have been serious.
I brought my metal bats because I am most comfortable using my own bats, and secondly, the ball travels a bit further. I wanted to put one out today.
Anyhow, the other comment directed toward me was some guy who asked his buddies three times if Daniel McCutchen had just walked past.
Maybe there’s some resemblance with the hair… I don’t know. I hope not.
Anyway, after checking in at a table outside of PNC Park, we were led down onto the field. Amy had come along to take some photos of the action.
The only problem is that there was no action. My group was assigned to ‘catch in left field’ first. We were supposed to play catch with our guest or snag balls.
I started throwing myself popups I was so bored. It was worse than a Pirates BP.
Eventually, Ian Weir showed up with his cousin Josh – two fellow ballhawks that I knew and would be able to throw some with.
We threw in left field for awhile.
Mixed in some popups and grounders.
And after a half hour, moved over to right field, where we would shag fly balls.
We got two fly balls, shot out of a pitching machine high into the air before we would rotate to the back of the line.
It was better than the last group, where we basically stood around – at least there was somewhat of a challenge, albeit an easy one for someone that attends BP every day and catches flies all the time.
Anyhow, the pitching machine was pitching the balls, so I watched and tried to time when I should begin my stride after seeing the ball put into the machine.
After 10 minutes or so, we rotated into the cage.
Here I am on deck:
And here I am taking some cuts.
I only got 10 pitches, and was forced to change my bat after the first pitch. “You can’t use a metal bat!!” shouted some teenage intern operating the pitching machine. I was pretty mad because fellow season ticket holder Nick Pelescak informed me that he had been allowed to use his metal bat in his session just two hours earlier. Lame. How about some consistency?
Anyhow, I quickly grabbed a Ronny Paulino 35 inch 32 ounce wooden bat so I didn’t murder anyone with screamers off of my metal bat (by the way, no one was allowed in the infield anyhow – I still don’t see what the big deal was about).
Out of the 10 pitches I pulled everything, hit a couple flies, swung and missed at a few, hit some grounders, and hit one bomb that landed in foul territory that would’ve probably had a chance to clear the fence had I not been out in front of it. It landed on the fly here:
I felt like Brandon Wood. If you’ve watched him in Pirates BP, you know what I mean.
Anyhow, we were allowed to get back in the cage after everyone got 10 pitches.
What was important about Forbes Field, well, Amy took me there on our first official date one year ago today.
Some pics from what’s left of Forbes Field:
At the 457 deepest part of the park:
Forbes Field Historical Marker:
Home Plate, which is in a lecture hall across the street from the outfield wall:
Two great close ups that Amy took of Olivia and I at the outfield wall of Forbes Field:
Walking down some steps, I think it was 144 steps or something like that. It was a lot.
I’m planning on going to Cleveland on Thursday after work…
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)
Batting practice was rained out on both Monday and Tuesday, so today was my first baseball game in 15 days. Today was special, as I brought Olivia and Amy to the ballpark:
She was a perfect angel and didn’t cry or fuss at all the whole time we were at PNC Park.
There were a handful of balls that landed in the seats, but it seems like any more that this is all we do:
At 5:30, I found a ball in foul territory hidden under a seat.
Ushers had combed through the rows a few minutes prior and picked up a couple more.
Back over in left field, I made a nice place on a ground rule double as I picked it from the first row as it was bouncing over the wall.
I got my fourth ball of the day in foul territory, as an Astros player hit a slow roller that settled about 6 feet out from the low wall past third base. I ran over and tossed my glove out to nudge the ball closer so I could grab it. In the meantime, Coach Suba was prowling around looking for baseballs and was walking over to retrieve the ball when I snagged it. He said, “I don’t come into your yard and take your lawnmower.” I didn’t want to argue so I just offered him the ball back. “No, you can keep it, I just wish I would’ve known you were going to get it so I didn’t have to walk the whole way over here,” he said.
In the meantime, Wilton Lopez stormed over looking real pissed that I had taken a ball off the warning track and demanded that I give the ball back. I threw him the ball back and he stormed off for a moment and acted like he was going to throw the ball back to the infield, but then broke into a huge smile and threw me the ball back. He was just messing with me. Although I snagged the ball two different times, by two different means, I’m only going to count it once. I’ve seen some shady stat keeping by ballhawks where they’d count the ball as two, but whatever. I’m counting it as a device ball in my stats.
Here’s Suba and Lopez a few seconds after all that happened:
My fifth ball was a home run that landed in section 134 that I was able to snag before another guy, who ended up losing his balance. He was fine. I supported him as he lost his balance.
And, my last ball of the day was tossed to me by a groundkeeper who happened by as I was about to glove trick a ball by section 101.
I wasted the last 10 minutes by the Astros dugout since there were no fans there – in an attempt to get a ball from a player as they ran off the field. The Astros ended up hitting longer today and I ended up losing out on several home run balls that landed in the seats a vastly empty right field.
As for the game, we had seats in the club level, but I didn’t snag anything else.
Game: 6 balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device, 1 found)
Season: 362 balls (152 hit, 76 thrown, 85 device, 49 found)
Games: 68 games
Average: 5.33 per game
Career: 1,484 balls
Remaining games to reach goal of 413: 8
Needed to reach goal: 51 (6.4 per game)
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