As you may have noticed, for over a week or so now, I have been blogging every day. The purpose was to increase my readership during the offseason as we head towards opening day, get myself back into the habit of blogging, and count down the days one blog at a time.
In order to reward you for reading, I’ve decided to give away a MLB prize each week. Every Monday, I will post a contest for new item. Then, a winner will be chosen on Sunday, a week later.
So let’s begin by showing you what is being given away in the #countingbaseballs giveaway for this week. It’s…
A Matt Wieters Baltimore Orioles name and number official Majestic shirt. Retail value $22. Brand new. With tags.
Up close front:
Brand new from the store:
Since I’m extra nice, the winner may choose a size MEDIUM or LARGE. If you’re on the bigger side, I’m sorry – I’ll try and have larger shirts in the future. But you could always re-gift if you win. Anyhow, this shirt is sure to please and Orioles fan, or ballhawk that will see the Orioles at a game in 2012. Oh, and I’ll even pay the postage.
How to Enter:
1) Leave a comment.
You can enter up to seven times per week simply by leaving a comment. Non-pertinent, spam, or inappropriate comments will not be accepted. If you comment multiple times on the same blog entry, it still counts as one entry. For example, if you commented on three different blog posts from this week, you’d have three entries.
2) Retweet (RT) my posts on Twitter
You can find me on twitter under 333greystreet. Simply retweet my daily posts with a #countingbaseballs in your RT each day and I’ll count that as an entry. My blog is connected to my twitter so that I automatically tweet once I post a new entry. Each day, I’ll search #countingbaseballs to see who’s retweeted me and enter those users into a hat along with the commenters.
At the end of the week on Sunday, I’ll have Olivia, Amy or I will choose a name from a hat and announce the winner. Maybe we’ll do it on youtube. The maximum number of entries per week is 14 if you leave comments and retweet.
Anyhow, I thought this would be a cool idea to give away some of my extra MLB Stuff.
I’ll end this post with some thoughts about Matt Wieters.
Where does he rank for you among the best catchers in the American League? Who is better than him? Mike Napoli? Carlos Santana? Joe Mauer? Alex Avila? I’ll rank him at 2nd. I like Carlos Santana best, but that’s probably because he plays for my second favorite team and I snagged a game HR ball from him in 2009.
Long suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fans are all too familiar with Matt Wieters. In 2007, the Pirates, led by David Littlefield, passed on Matt Wieters in order to select Daniel Moskos. Outrage ensued at the Pirates’ cheapness and on June 30th 2007, Bob Walk bobblehead night, fans orchestrated a walk out. Fans wore green to the game to signify owner Bob Nutting’s greed and then walked out at a pre-determined time. I was at the game, but I can’t exactly remember when it happened. The game was virtually a sell out, and although a few thousand people left, it wasn’t too noticeable in the grand scheme of things.
Wieters broke into the league in 2009 and has hit 42 home runs and has been an All Star. Daniel Moskos finally was promoted to the Major Leagues in 2011 and although he posted a 2.96 ERA in 24 innings. His H/9 (10.9) and WHIP (1.56) were high. In the Minors, he has a career 4.41 ERA, including a 5.46 ERA in 39 games at the AAA level. So, he really hasn’t proven in the minors that he’ll have a successful big league career yet.
And that catching position, well, the Pirates really REALLY needed Matt Wieters because rather than penciling his name in at catcher every day, over the last three years we’ve had to deal with Wyatt Toregas, Matt Pagnozzi, Eric Fryer, Dusty Brown, Jason Jaramillo, Chris Snyder, Ryan Doumit, Michael McKenry, Erik Kratz and Robinzon Diaz (who we traded Jose Bautista to get!)
God help us Pirates fans.
65 Days until opening day…
Today’s game began at 1:10 PM, meaning the gates would open at 11:40 pm. However, I was hoping to get in early at Friday’s, so we arrived at the stadium around 10:30 AM.
It proved to be a mistake, because the Friday’s early entrance doesn’t open until 11AM. Amy and I were forced to stand in 40 degree temps with wind gusts of up to 50 mph for a half hour. It was brutal cold. Brutal.
We were chased from the concourse by a cranky security supervisor who made us go to Friday’s, but failed to say anything to the other couples who were loitering around.
Doumit’s first throw was well short, and fell into the bullpen. He tried again, but over shot me by 10 feet, and the ball hit a bleacher and bounced back onto the field. His third try was right on the money though. I definitely appreciated Doumit’s patience and willingness to make sure he hooked me up.
The Pirates were hitting some home runs, but not very many into the seating areas.
Everyone was tailgating and blocking the aisles, and all of the exits were roped off. The only way off was the one entryway where cars were streaming in. Eventually we were let out. We didn’t get home until 11:58 PM, as it was a ten hour drive back. Amy helped make the drive back fun though, and it went fast.
Game: 3 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device,)
Season: 140 balls (56 hit, 35 thrown, 28 device, 20 found)
Games: 22 games
Average: 6.36 balls per game
Career: 1,262 balls
*Last year on May 15th I had snagged 115 baseballs through 16 games, so I am a bit ahead of last year’s record year, despite the poor weather we’ve had.
Valentine’s Day brought the first workout for many Major League Baseball Teams. The Pirates first workout was today in Pirate City.
The Pirates have made some changes from their 2010 105-loss team. Gone are manager John Russell and under performers Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, Lastings Milledge, and Delwyn Young. In are new faces such as Kevin Correia, Matt Diaz, Scott Olsen, Joe Beimel, and Lyle Overbay.
One interesting thing that the Pirates are featuring this year are the Spring Training Jerseys, which will also be used during batting practice.
Pedro Ciriaco gets ready to take some cuts:
Ryan Doumit runs through some catching drills:
Unfortunately, I didn’t take these pictures, they were posted by Pirates Tribune Review beat writer Rob Biertempfel.
I will be headed down to spring training in early March though – so keep an eye out for that!
In the meantime, on Sunday Feb 13th, when the Pirates were checking in at Pirate City, we were taking advantage of the 45 degree temperatures, exploring a trail along the Monongahela River.
What began as dinner by the river, ended in a hunt for a beaver dam, as we encountered at least 40 trees that beavers had chopped down and dragged away.
A look at a tree that was just too much for a beaver to take down.
We spent about an hour on this little ‘adventure,’ but failed to find any dams, despite looking all along the river.
The next day, while the Pirates were working out in Florida, I was enjoying Valentine’s Day.
I decorated a table and served breakfast:
Went to work, came home, and went on a dinner and dancing cruise on the Gateway Clipper.
A view of downtown from the Gateway Clipper as we approached from the Allegheny:
Passing PNC Park:
I also took a video of us passing PNC Park.
It was like 25 degrees with 30 mph wind, so I was quite frozen after taking that video – you’re welcome.
I’m looking forward to the 2011 season so I have some more baseball related stuff to report on.
It’s a custom made baseball case in the shape of home plate that displays 30 baseballs. Each shelf has tiny divots for the balls to be placed in.
Today would be my first Saturday with batting practice at PNC Park. All of the other days featured rain that wiped out BP.
I ran in just behind Nick Pelescak only to be stopped at the bullpen entrance to the left field bleachers by a security working who refused to allow anyone into the bleachers, despite many of us holding our Season Ticket Holder cards. “We have to scan your tickets,” he said nervously as we all glared at him.
In the meantime, three balls flew into the bleachers. I had my eye on one next to the bullpen, but Nick Pelescak put a verbal claim on it, so I would instead look for another ball that hit about three rows in. It paid off.
When the man with the scanner came and finally let us all in, I ran in and found ball #1 in the front row, ball #2 in the front row another section over, and ball #3 in the left field corner.
What a great start!
Ball #4 was a home run hit by Ryan Doumit. It hit in the handicapped seats behind me and popped up in the air, right to me.
Ball #5 was thrown to me by Octavio Dotel. Here he stands and watches another ballhawk use the glove trick.
Game: 9 balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 5 found)
Season: 243 balls (129 hit, 60 thrown, 22 device, 32 found)
Games: 37 games
Average: 6.57 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 821 balls
Streak: 133 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I could only attend batting practice at today’s game because I had Dave Matthews Band tickets for later tonight.
Since today’s game was to begin at 12:35, I feared that there would be no batting practice. Usually on day games after night games, there is no batting practice. However, when I was walking to the Center field gate, I could see this.
I got to the gates at 9:45 AM, 15 minutes early, and was third in line. There were two non-ballhawks in front of me, so I felt pretty confident about being the first person into batting practice and claiming any Easter eggs.
I was the first one to the early entrance point, but the season ticket scanner wasn’t there. A few other security guards came and said we had to wait until the scanner showed up. I showed them I had season tickets and I even flashed my season ticket card. They said no one could enter until the scanner showed up. In the mean time, there were three fans with visitor passes in the bleachers.
Ryan Doumit crushed a homerun that landed in the bleachers. All I could do is stand helplessly and watch one of the visitor fans walk over and pick it up. One missed opportunity. Doumit hit another ball that hit near the bullpen. It bounced off a bleacher and rolled down to the front row. Luckily, the visitors didn’t see this one. When the employee who scans the early entrance finally showed up 6 minutes late, I ran in and claimed the Doumit HR ball. It was ball #1.
Game: 6 Balls (3 hit, 3 device)
Season: 26 Balls (12 hit, 9 thrown, 5 device)
Games: 6 Games (5 with BP/ 1 without)
Average: 4.33 Balls per Game
Career: 192 Balls
I attended today’s game with my best friend from my childhood days, Joe Filipowski. We got to the gates about 10 minutes before they were to open. I hate how the gates don’t open until 90 minutes before the first pitch. At 11:40, we were finally let inside. The Pirates were already in mid batting practice.
I checked for Easter eggs in left field, but there was nothing there. With some of the Pirates better hitters coming up and being left handed, we headed over to right field. I was shocked at how amazingly rude the Pirates were towards their own fans. I got totally ignored by Zach Duke, Jesse Chavez, Craig Monroe, Eric Hinske, Brandon Moss, and Donnie Veal in right field. I asked each of them for a ball on more than one occasion, but was ignored. The irritating part was that they were giving balls to little kids with Reds gear on, even though I was completely decked out in Pirates gear, including their new alternate batting practice jersey. It looked like it was going to be one of those days.
I decided to try and get a batted ball from one of the left handed power hitters. Nate McLouth hit one, but it was over my head and some guy just barely beat me to it. My friend Joe got the first ball of the day, but gave it away to a little kid. Jesse Chavez pointed the kid out and tossed it to him several rows up, but the kid missed it. Joe ended up catching up, but out of kindness gave it to the kid. He later said he regretted giving it away, it being the first ball that he’d snagged since the 1994 Home Run Derby at Three Rivers Stadium.
Moments later, Brandon Moss launched a deep fly ball to right field. I drifted over about 5 seats and camped out underneath it. The ball landed squarely in my glove. It was ball #1 of the day for me, and my first ball of 2009. It’d been over 6 months since I last snagged a ball, so it was good to finally get one. If you can find the #1 below, that’s the exact spot I snagged Moss’ Home Run.
I didn’t take any pictures during batting practice because I felt like having my camera around my neck would be a distraction for me and make moving around a little tougher. After Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss’s group hit, I decided to move to left field. It would prove to be a little late because Andy LaRoche was absolutely raking balls into left field while we were in right.
I made my way over to where Matt Capps, Tyler Yates, and John Grabow were standing in left center field. I asked several times for some balls, but was ignored by Yates. At least Grabow looked at me, but decided to throw the ball into the bleachers instead. I made eye contact with Capps. He got a ball and pointed at me and tossed it. Out of no where, a Reds fan dives in front of me and steals the ball before it reached me. (I was in the second row, he was in the first). Luckily, another ball was hit to Capps. He turned around and made sure I caught this one, arching it perfectly. It was ball #2 of the day.
I then decided to move to the left field line where Ian Snell and Craig Hansen were hanging out. Since catching a HR ball would prove tricky here, I decided to try and ask every Pirate I could for a ball. I settled into the second row in one of the sections near the line. I chose an empty row so I could somewhat move. Moments later, Craig Monroe lauched a line drive in my direction. I barely had to move. There was some competition for the ball from some people in the front row, but since I am 6’5″, I was able to outreach them and made the snag for ball #3 on the day. The below picture shows the exact locations of balls #2 and #3:
My dad and I headed to our last Spring Training game on this short trip: Reds vs Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton FL.
We got to the field around 10:20 AM and the Pirates were already half way through their round of batting practice. Luckily, we were once again able to access the spot behind the left field fence. I was told by a guy on Saturday that during the week the area behind the fence was off limits. He was wrong.
Total Balls: 9
Games Attended: 3
Total Career Spring Training Balls: 9
Note: I do not count these balls in my totals. They will be tracked in a separate category and I will not count them in my career ball totals.