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
Like I mentioned yesterday, I decided that I didn’t want to waste four hours of my day standing around at a run down parking lot behind the left field wall of McKechnie Field. With my girlfriend Amy, we decided to make better use of our time in Florida and head to a different beach.
There were thousands of sea shells on the beach, so we wrote something in ‘shelligraphy.’ Here’s the finished product. I wrote ‘Amy.’
After some beach fun, which included swimming in a cold, empty ocean, we headed to the Orioles Spring Training complex on the way to Bradenton.
He and some coaches were picking up the balls in the outfield.
I called out to one of the coaches and asked if he could toss a ball over. He did.
Then he asked, “How tall are you?” “About 6’5” I answered. I must’ve looked way taller because my whole head was above the six foot fence. I think there must’ve been a tiny mound or something I was standing on. “You look way taller than that!” The coach replied.
There were some cool trees bhind the center field wall:
And a woodpecker that kept drilling holes in the trees above us:
A view of Ed Smith Stadium off in the distance:
A look at the area behind the fences:
A baseball graveyard, protected by barbed wire:
One that didn’t make it:
Here’s a short video of the area where I got the ball at:
After a few minutes, we headed back to our illegally parked car (we weren’t going to pay $9 for 15 minutes of standing outside of a baseball practice field). We then made the trip to Bradenton.
When we arrived, these are the lineups that both teams would put on the field today:
The Red Sox lineup was pretty disappointing – no David Ortiz, no Carl Crawford, no Adrian Gonzalez, no Dustin Pedroia.
We got there just as the game was starting and Mike Cameron was digging in for the Red Sox.
Here was a view of our seats. Notice the large crowd? It was the largest crowd ever in McKechnie Field’s 42 year history.
Here’s some pictures from the game, taken courtesy of Counting Baseballs’ official blog photographer, Amy:
Jose Tabata, the Pirates starting left fielder, awaits a pitch. Hopefully Tabata can improve on his power numbers this year:
Josh Beckett, Boston’s ace, took the mound for the Red Sox.
Here’s a short video of Josh Beckett battling Garrett Jones:
Panorama of a packed house at McKechnie Field:
Pedro Alvarez prepares to react to a pitch:
The Grandstand at McKechnie Field:
John Bowker’s home run swing, as he watches a towering fly ball clear the right field fence:
Brad Lincoln delivers a pitch:
JD Drew, one of the very few regulars from the Red Sox, at the plate:
Another long time Red Sox player, Jason Varitek:
Before we left, we checked out the Pirates’ clubhouse store. Check out the new Pirates hoody this year. Amy is going to get it for me at PNC Park and use my Pirates’ clubhouse store discount.
After the game, we headed back to the ocean for some beach fun.
Later, we had an epic game of miniature golf. On the way back to the hotel, we passed a miniature golf place. Trash talking ensued, and it was on.
The course had a big lake with fountains in the middle of it along with live gators.
By the third hole, I had a slim lead, and was feeling confident.
However, Amy, who typically slugs the heck out of the ball as if it were a driving range, started putting like a PGA pro golfer.
This video just demonstrates my bad luck:
I managed to hold a three stroke lead through the first 9 holes. I had a little bit of trouble in one of the mini golf caves,
but bounced back with a ridiculous hole in one soon after, the only one of the day.
I managed to keep a two stroke lead through most of the game, but started to get too overly confidant.
Another cave brought more bad luck for me.
I tried to distract Amy by pretending that I thought that the caves were actually real and that the golf course was built around the caves. The distraction didn’t work, as she worked her magic and tied up the score.
The game came down to the very last hole. The score was tied up. I went first and the ball came to rest several feet from the hole. Amy came up and used pin point precision to put the ball 8 inches from the hole. It was an easy tap in for her. There was no way she could lose. I had to sink a long put just to tie and keep my non-losing streak in tact. I can’t remember ever losing in miniature golf to a girl. That would all change today, I missed the putt, lost the game, and a private bet between Amy and I.
It was almost 11, so we went back to the hotel to relax before another day in Florida tomorrow.
I decided to see the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. It would be the first time I’d see the Red Sox in the regular season (I had seen them several times before in Spring Training).
I got to the stadium after 4PM, but was still the first in line. The Indians were already hitting, so I was hoping to find a few Easter Eggs. Unfortunately, when I got into the right field stands, I didn’t find anything, although a young kid did find one.
I checked in the bullpen briefly and saw this:
I went to work immediately, throwing my glove into the bullpen to nudge the ball closer to the wall, and then glove tricking ball #1. With the ball in my possession, I ran over to Heritage Park to search the trees.
Game: 10 balls (6 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season: 185 balls (98 hit, 51 thrown, 13 device, 23 found)
Games: 30 games
Average: 6.17 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 763 balls
Streak: 126 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance: 14,022 (with the Red Sox in town!) Surprising.