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
On Monday, the ballhawks of PNC Park got groundscrewed. That’s right. It was perfect weather for batting practice, but due to a short and light shower at 4PM, the groundscrew decided to cancel batting practice so that they could essentially have a three hour break before they really had to do anything.
This was the seen from the bridge as Nick and I watched and waited, but never saw a cage.
So on Tuesday, I was hoping to get off to a good start on the longest homestand of the year. Since Pedro Alvarez was sent down today, there weren’t any balls that left the stadium out onto the riverwalk.
When the Cardinals came out, I was able to glove trick a ball that had rolled out of view just inside the bullpen door.
At 5:30, I ran into foul territory where I had kept tabs on a foul ball that was hit into the upper seating area above the cross aisle. I was clearly able to see it from the upper bleachers, making it an easy run and grab mission.
I didn’t get anything else until the end of batting practice, but noticed a toss up as the Cardinals ran off the field hit the right field seats and settle on the warning track in center field. Zac Weiss was perched above another ball on the warning track, and held the spot so I could glove trick that one as well.
I glove tricked the first ball on one attempt by Zac, the second one took much longer. The lacing in my glove is slowly falling apart, and its causing the glove trick to be much less effective. After about five minutes of trying, I finally reeled it in for ball #7, and gave it away to a group of kids. (I made them answer a trivia question to get the ball, since all four of them wanted it. One boy knew the answer to ‘Who wears #53 for the Pirates?’)
After that I left to go home and see Amy and Olivia, watch the movie the Source Code on Blu Ray, and walk to the local ice cream joint to have some ice cream. A great night!
Here’s the six balls that I kept:
Game: 7 balls (1 hit, 3 device, 3 found)
Season: 346 balls (142 hit, 73 thrown, 83 device, 48 found)
Games: 65 games
Career: 1,468 balls
I managed to make it to the final game of the homestand – a Sunday game which followed a night game. I actually wasn’t even planning on staying – I had some extra tickets to sell, but of course I took my glove with me just in case. Much to my surprise, when I arrived at 10:55 AM, the Pirates were on the field taking batting practice. Also, the gates were to open at 11 AM, and I was the first one in line, despite my late arrival. I guess most of the fans slept in after the late ending of the Train concert last night.
I had heard that manager Clint Hurdle cancelled batting practice on Saturday, despite perfect weather in an attempt to break the Pirates out of their losing streak. That obviously didn’t work, as the Pirates flailed away at the plate on Saturday and mustered little offense.
So, on Sunday, he took the opposite approach and elected for BP.
Since the seating bowl doesn’t open until 11:30AM, all fans are confined to the riverwalk outfield concourse. I watched batting practice from behind section 141 in hopes that Pedro Alvarez or Garrett Jones would hit one over the seats and onto the concourse.
It didn’t happen, and my several requests to Andrew McCutchen were met with eye rolls. At first I thought, ‘wow, what’s your problem, its not like you have to sign autographs.’ I later found out that he had been benched for today’s game for being picked off the night before.
Around 11:08, there were already four easter eggs in the left field seats, and I was keeping an eye on all of them, noting the ones that weren’t picked up by the devious ushers. Then, I noticed several fans rush into the left field bleachers and pick them up. ‘Stupid guests,’ I thought, thinking that they had received early access guest passes from the Pirates front office. I then noticed a steady trickle of fans, and the left field bleachers began to fill up.
I ditched my spot, and headed for left field. The gates by the bullpen were wide open, and they weren’t supposed to be until 11:30 AM.
It worked out well, as I caught a home run on the fly in section 134. It was a catch on the run, outstretched and back handed.
Then five minutes later, several security guards started yelling at everyone that they had to leave because someone wasn’t at their post, and we weren’t supposed to be there until 11:30. It was about 11:18, so I was hoping that we could all just stay for 12 minutes, but it wasn’t to be.
They herded all the fans up like cattle, and slowly pushed us out. You can see the security guard in the white shirt with yellow sleeves in the picture below.
At 11:30, I ran into foul territory and found ball #2 along the third base line.
I continued around the field and ended up in foul territory along the right field foul line, where I found ball #3.
While there I decided just to stay, as some of the Padres started trickling out.
The Padres pitchers started warming up, and there were only two fans along the right field line. Me, decked in full Padres gear, and a random Pirate fan. It seemed a no brainer that I would snag at least one more ball.
It happened as Tim Stauffer finished up his throws and tossed me ball #5.
Moments later, Ernesto Frieri tossed me ball #6.
And I snagged ball #7 when Josh Spence threw a wild pitch that his catching partner couldn’t scoop and ended up in the seats. I offered the ball back, but they let me keep it.
At noon, all other gates to the stadium opened, and I tried my luck in left field, since the Padres are so heavily right handed, but it was so crowded that I could barely even move.
The Padres hit until 12:20, and as soon as they finished, I went home to be with my family.
The Pirates are just a game out of first place. Thus, another sell out crowd today, aided by the fact that there was a skyblast show after the game.
There’s not much to speak of for this entry. I only planned on staying for batting practice and then getting out of there to be with Amy.
Upon entering, a ball landed in the upper bleachers. At this point, only Nick and Zac were in the left field bleachers, and I just happened to be the closest to the staircase when it hit, so I ran up and grabbed it for ball #1.
I made a clean catch a bit later for ball #2 – not sure exactly who hit it. Some Cub. Who knows?
While watching the Cubs, trapped in left field (because the rest of the stadium doesn’t open until 5:30), I watched Carlos Pena, Koyie Hill and others litter the right field wall with home runs. I was hoping to run over and pick some up, but like clockwork, at 5:22, ushers appeared and took all the balls.
They missed one however. Carlos Pena had hit one that hit the chain link fence at the top of the wall and disappeared.
When I ran in to look, it was still there, in the row behind the last row of seats, wedged between concrete and the seats.
That was it for batting practice.
I went for a run later on that night and ended up badly spraining my ankle afterwards. What luck.
Game: 3 balls (3 hit)
Season: 291 balls (128 hit, 61 thrown, 68 device, 34 found)
Games: 52 games
Average: 5.60 balls per game
Career: 1,413 balls
Attendance : 39,235