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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.