The baseball world has been abuzz recently due to Ryan Braun’s suspension being repealed by an independent arbitrator. In case you missed it, Braun tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and was facing a 50 game suspension. His sample had ridiculously high levels of synthetic testosterone, a banned substance. Braun and his lawyers argued successfully and won the first ever PED suspension appeal in MLB history.
The are two possible reasons for Braun’s positive test:
1) Braun is a cheater and actually did take illegal substances
2) Someone tried to frame Braun by tainting his sample and framing him.
The arbitrator agreed. Because the collector took the sample on a Saturday and didn’t mail it to the lab until a Monday, it was argued that during the 48 hour that a third party tampered with his sample. MLB disagreed because the seal on the sample wasn’t broken, making it thereby impossible that it was tampered with.
Braun will face increased pressure to follow up his MVP season with a similar performance. He has doubters all over the game right now. If his performance trails off, everyone will assume that he cheated and got off – a la OJ Simpson. Unfortunately for Braun, he no longer has Prince Fielder batting behind him, which helps him because pitchers may be more likely to pitch around him. Also, Braun is going to be mercilessly tortured on the road. Can you even imagine that insults that will be hurled at him in the left field bleachers. Here’s some advice – if the Brewers are in town and you have children, don’t sit in left field.
Last season, Braun’s WAR – wins above replacement was a 7.7, so his suspension would’ve cost the Brewers about 3 wins – that’s a big margin for an NL Central that is going to be tightly contested between the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds.
On another front, the Pirates organization was embarrassed when news that president Frank Coonelly was arrested on December 22nd for driving under the influence of alcohol. His blood alcohol content was .16 – twice the legal limit.
To Mr. Coonelly’s credit, he did own up to his mistake and took all of the blame. My problem with it is that he could’ve seriously injured someone else due to his lack in judgment. It also doesn’t set a very good precedence for the president to be DUI, while young players would be disciplined for a similar infraction.
I’m hoping that Mr Coonelly learns his lesson and gives up drinking altogether. I do not think he should be fired.
The main problem I have with his situation is that the Pirates kept it hush-hush for two months.
What are your thoughts on Frank Coonelly? Should he be disciplined?
What do you think about Ryan Braun winning his appeal? Do you think he was guilty and got off on a technicality or that he was actually clean? I’d be interested in hearing.
There’s only 41 days until opening day, 8 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies), and 3 more days to win a Phillies shirt.
Also, 35 consecutive days of postings! (Just made it today – putting this one up at 11:50pm)
Unfortunately, I lost half of my pictures from the beginning of batting practice due to a malfunction of my camera. I must’ve left it on in my pocket, and when I went to take a picture half way through batting practice, it was in Chinese. The format option must’ve been pressed, and everything got erased from my camera.
So, ball #1 was a home run hit by Ryan Braun to the handicapped seats in left field. I jumped over a railing and picked it up for my first ball of the day.
My second ball was snagged in the ivy in center field.
Ryan Braun hit it there about 5:20, and I kept my eye on it the whole time, thinking it might be reachable. It was, and at 5:30 when the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over and grabbed it.
My third ball was pointed out to me by one of the ushers in center field. Both ushers in center field are really cool guys.
Ball #4 was fielded off the bat of Craig Counsell. I decided to head over to foul territory for a bit as there were three weak left handers up, and there was no screen protecting third base. I figured that they would try to go the other way a few times. The strategy paid off, as Counsell sliced a grounder right at me.
Ball #5 was a ground rule double off the bat of Wil Nieves. I chased it down and grabbed it with my barehand as the ball was rolling all over the place under the bleachers:
That was it for batting practice. Five baseballs. It was pretty disappointing, but the Brewers were focusing on a opposite field approach, perhaps expecting Paul Maholm to work them outside all night.
As for the game itself, I wandered around and took a picture from the upper deck during pregame.
Then I sat in the club section for a couple innings waiting for a foul ball that wouldn’t come.
I then returned to the outfield areas hoping to snag a warm up ball.
An inning later, I snagged Jose Tabata’s 8th inning warm up ball for ball #7.
The ball was bobbled by these college aged kids in the front row.
I seized the opportunity by snatching it with my glove as it was being dropped by one of them.
Season: 54 balls (21 hit, 11 thrown, 14 device, 8 found)
Games: 8 games
Average: 6.75 balls per game
Career: 1,176 balls
I got to the ballpark around 4:45 pm, and this was the scene at the Riverwalk.
The stairs leading down were blocked off with caution tape because the Allegheny River was overflowing. However, I went down anyway. One ball bounced out as I arrived. Had I been five seconds earlier I would’ve had it, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Here’s a different angle:
My first ball of the day once the stadium opened was snagged here. It was a home run that I chased down here:
The Pirates batting practice continues to be less than stellar, as they fail to reach the seats very often. Once the Pirates were done hitting, I changed into my Brewers gear, and the action began.
The Brewers first group contained Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder. They hit a bunch of homers.
I snagged my second ball in section 134 off the bat Jonathan Lucroy.
My third ball was a home run hit by Ryan Braun. I could tell that it was going to be way over my head, so I ran back under the bleachers and snagged it under the rotunda.
My fourth ball was glove tricked right next to the Pirates bullpen door.
I also saw this there:
However, it was 5:28, and I had knocked it snug against the wall and couldn’t see it anymore, as I couldn’t lean out over the wall because of the fencing. I gave up and let it go. Totally forgetting about it.
I checked in right field for an easter egg or two, but there was nothing there, and I didn’t want to miss out on all the action in left field, so I returned to left. The second group also put plenty of balls into the seat.
Rickie Weeks hit a home run ball that I chased down under the rotunda for ball #5. And moments later, a batter that I believe was Casey McGehee hit a home run that also went under the rotunda which I tracked down.
My eighth ball was a glove trick ball snagged right by the 325 sign:
That was it for batting practice. After batting practice, Nick tipped me off to a ball in the bullpen. It was the same ball that I started working on at 5:28 that I had knocked against the wall. I had totally forgotten about it.
Thanks to Ian Weir for taking the picture.
Ball #10 came around 6:55 when Kevin Correia, the Pirates started finished his warm ups in the bullpen. I asked politely for the ball, and he looked up and tossed it to me.
Moments later, Ball #11 came from Jose Tabata in the first inning. I noticed he was looking at a group of college aged folks, so I went and stood directly to their right. Since I was the only one with the glove, he fired me a perfect strike. He put some zip on the throw too.
Notice how small the crowd was at game time. There was a Penguins playoff game, and I doubt that half of the 8,000 fans that bought tickets actually showed up.
Pretty cool huh?
Well, despite the small crowds, I didn’t snag another ball.
Here are today’s 11 baseballs:
And the sweet spots.
Season: 47 balls (17 hit, 9 thrown, 14 device, 7 found)
Games: 7 games
Average: 6.70 balls per game
Career: 1,169 balls
I got a Club level seat tonight. The last time (link) I sat in the Club level, I caught two foul balls, and the visiting team was the Milwaukee Brewers. This was the Brewers final game at PNC Park this year.
Batting Practice was very frustrating.
I only got two balls during the Pirates portion. One was a Lastings Milledge home run that landed underneath the left field rotunda.
(Ball #3 says Blood Pressure Rising, which I responded “You’re telling me,” after snagging it – in regards to the frustrating BP)
Game: 6 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 318 balls (171 hit, 71 thrown, 32 device, 44 found)
Games: 49 games
Average: 6.49 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 896 balls
Streak: 145 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
The weather looked a bit questionable earlier in the day, with the hourly forecast calling for a 60% chance of thunderstorms at 5 and 6PM. Luckily, it didn’t happen, and batting practice was on.
After getting shut out during the first Pirates’ group, I got a Ronny Cedeno HR ball that sailed over my head and bounced into the general admission bleachers.
I eventually found the ball after a short search in about the fifth row up.
My second ball was a home run snagged off the bat of Lastings Milledge. It was a line drive right at me that I caught in the air.
In his next round in the cage, Milledge sent another shot to left field which I also caught on the fly here:
Game: 8 balls (7 hit, 1 found)
Season: 312 balls (167 hit, 70 thrown, 31 device, 44 found)
Games: 48 games
Average: 6.50 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 890 balls
Streak: 144 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Today got off to a really slow start. I didn’t snag my first ball until near the end of Pirates batting practice.
Lastings Milledge hit a home run that ended up in the upper bleachers. As I ran up to get it, another ball narrowly missed hitting me on my way up the stairs. I continued up the stairs to snag ball #1.
At the end of Pirates BP, Ross Ohlendorf tossed me ball #2.
That was all I got from the Pirates in the first 30 minutes. A bit frustrating.
Not long after the Brewers started hitting, Rickie Weeks hit a home run ball that was directly in the sun. I tracked the ball most of the way, but lost it at the last second. Luckily, the ball landed right next to me in the front row. Another ballhawk inexplicably threw his glove at the ball, which missed and ended up on the field, so I was able to dodge the glove and snag ball #3. It had the number ‘8’ written on it.
I used the glove trick to snag ball #4 near the bullpen.
A ball had settled up against the wall and made for an easy snag. All I had to do was make sure Marcus Hanel, who despises the glove trick, wasn’t watching.
I left after the third inning as I still needed to get to the gym and it was already almost 8:30pm.
Here are today’s baseballs:
Game: 9 balls (4 hit, 2 device, 3 thrown)
Season: 304 balls (160 hit, 70 thrown, 31 device, 43 found)
Games: 47 games
Average: 6.47 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 882 balls
Streak: 143 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I needed to rebound after driving 4 hours to Washington and only getting three balls, despite a full BP. My redemption would come today.
I arrived at the stadium a few minutes before the gates opened. Although there were no easter eggs that I could find, I did end up getting on the board rather quickly.
My first and second balls that I snagged were off the bat of Jason Jaramillo. The first hit a bleacher, and I ran over and picked up, and the second was a ground rule double that bounced to me over the fence.
For whatever reason, Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge were hitting in the last group today. Typically, the last group is reserved for light-hitting backups. If this trend continues, it could be very good, considering there are very few folks at BP early, and both players have home run power.
Anyhow, that was it for Pirates BP. Two balls.
The Brewers came out, and I was hoping for some action. Unfortunately, most Brewers were wearing their warm up jerseys,
so I couldn’t identify many batters, except for obvious ones like Prince Fielder, Craig Counsell or Corey Hart.
Game: 12 balls (8 hit, 3 thrown, 1 found)
Season: 39 balls (24 hit, 6 thrown, 5 device, 4 found)
Games: 7 games
Average: 5.57 balls per game
Career: 617 balls
Streak: 103 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
2009 through 7 games: 29 (Currently I am 10 balls ahead of last year’s career high season)
Today started in the same place as yesterday. I stood about a foot from the river’s edge and waited for balls to sail onto the outer concourse of PNC Park, and bounce towards the river. Two other ballhawks, Nick and Bryan Pelescak, joined in the opportunity. Yesterday, one ball came out.
Today, there would also be just one ball that would exit the stadium.
I heard a crackling of branches to my left, and quickly looked to see a ball rolling towards the river. Bryan was the closest to the spot, but wasn’t able to corral the ball before it rolled off of the walkway and into the Allegheny River.
Game: 5 balls (5 hit)
Season: 293 balls (151 hit, 89 thrown, 53 device)
Games: 61 games (6 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.80 balls per game
Career: 459 balls
Streak: 76 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I decided to try a new tactic today and stand in foul territory for the entire Pirates’ batting practice. As soon as the gates opened at 4:30, I hurried over to the corner seat right along the left field foul line. My reasoning was that the Pirates’ left handed hitters would be slashing the ball down the line, working on their opposite field stroke. Wouldn’t you know, that I didn’t get a single ball from a Pirates left handed hitter come remotely close to me.
I received ball #1 courtesy of Ian Snell. Snell is having a rough season, but he is an all around good guy when it comes to tossing balls into the stands. I called out his name and he fired a ball at me. It was probably about 65 mph, and it was a few feet over my head, so I had to leap for it to make the grab. In the picture to the left, Ian Snell is talking with Denny Bautista in
front of the Verizon Wireless sign.
Ian used to hang out in center
field all the time until we traded or demoted all of Bautista’s shagging buddies (Damaso Marte, Romulo Sanchez, Franquelis Osoria, Yoslan Herrera, Marino Salas, etc).
Ball #2 came soon after, courtesy of Jack Wilson. Jack pulled a line drive down the line foul directly at me. It bounced one time and landed right in my glove. Wilson tends to pull balls down the line into foul territory an awful lot – I’ve only recently noticed it. The Pirates batting practice ended uneventfully at 5:15 and the Brewers came out to bat. I immediately made my way over to the left field bleachers.
I set up shop in my usual spot – on the aisle between Sections 135 and 135. I was anticipating a barrage of home runs from the Brew Crew. The first group yielded no positive results, as I didn’t even get near any of the home runs. Many were going to right field and center field, as Prince Fielder was in the group. Fielder hit a couple out of the stadium over the right field wall, presumably sending them into the Allegheny. He also tattooed the batter’s eye in Center Field, which is 450 feet from home plate.
The second group included the likes of Ryan Braun, Gabe Kapler, Corey Hart and
Weeks, so I liked my chances of getting some action. Braun didn’t dissapoint, probably hitting the most home runs of any Brewer. I got ball #3 from Braun, a ground rule double that bounced on the warning track, and took a nice clean perfect hop directly to me, five rows back into the crowd. I got a nice little applause from several people close by.
A few short moments later, Corey Hart launched a line drive home run ball to the section I was standing in. The ball’s path was directly in the sun for most of its flight. For those of you who attend batting practice on a regular basis at PNC Park, you know that the sun is absolutely brutal in left field. I was able to position myself in the path of the ball, but had to stare into the sun for what seemed like an eternity. I waited until the ball came out of the sun, and was able to catch it (ball #4) without even moving. I once again received a polite applause, while several people came over and asked me, “Did you see that? How were you able to keep you eye on that? I lost that one in the sun!” Never attend batting practice without sunglasses
Ball #5 was a home run by Gabe Kapler (I think) that landed on the 134 side of section 135. It landed in a group of soccer moms and little kids who ducked for cover. The ball landed and trickled down three rows. I had jogged over to take a look, as I usually do, in case of a funny ricochet, and was able to toss my glove over the ball as it was rolling towards me. I had ball #5 in my possession. Almost immediately, one of these mom’s starting patting me on the arm with purpose, saying “Come on, I need that ball for my son, you already caught three!” I totally ignored her and walked away with the ball. She called me a hog. I didn’t care. If I was going to give the ball away it certainly wasn’t going to be to her. I don’t think I would ever give a ball to someone who asked or demanded it.
At this point, a man in a yellow shirt came up to me and offered me $20 or $30 for one of my balls. He explained to me that he was from Maryland and had made a four hour drive and wanted a ball for his son. I told him that I don’t sell balls, and that he could try asking one of the players for a ball. The guy ended up paying another ballhawk $20 for a warm up ball.
I had already had five balls on the day, and batting practice was going to be ending in several minutes. I had noticed a ball laying on the warning track, unnoticed by the players. I decided to get the ball to add one more to my total. I walked over, politely asked a group of youngsters if I could get the ball. They looked at me in amazement as I took out my glove with a string tied to it. I dropped the glove directly on the ball and pulled it up in a matter of several seconds. It was ball #6. I handed the ball to a 9 year old kid on my right. What made things better, was the man who purchased a ball for $20 was standing right right, three people away, there watching everything unfold. I was hoping he was kicking himself for paying $20 for a used BP ball. He could’ve gone into the Pirates clubhouse store and bought a brand new official MLB ball with a cube-case for $22.
After pulling off the glove trick, one of the kids asked, “Can I have that!” I told him he’d have to make his own.
Batting practice ended, and although I tried to get some extra balls throughout the night, I was destined to leave with the five that I kept. The umpires and bullpen pitchers ignored me as I stood above the tunnel in Sec 24 after the game and asked for a ball.
Game: 6 Balls (1 given away)
Season: 110 Balls
Career: 148 Balls
Streak: 7 games with at least 1 ball
Attendance: 21,931 (57.2% full)