This week’s giveaway is a Philadelphia Phillies T-Shirt. It is the fourth in a series of weekly giveaways leading up to opening day. I’ve been posting everyday (30 consecutive so far) leading up to opening day, and giving stuff away to thank my readers.
The shirt(s) I’m giving away this week are…
A Ryan Howard Nike shirt.
This shirt not only is very colorful, but also is the perfect shirt to wear when sitting near the Phillies dugout. Ryan Howard will probably end up with the third out ball in about half of the innings. Simply stand up in this shirt and raise your glove. He’ll see the shirt and have to hook you up.
I’m also giving away this Philadelphia Phillies shirt:
It features the ‘classic print’ design, which is one of my favorite Majestic shirts designs.
Or, how about a Roy Halladay shirt?
That’s right, it says Doc-tober, and I think you can figure out why.
How about a clever Hunter Pence shirt?
Get it? Pence-ylvania… Pennsylvania.
The winner of this weeks entry gets their choice of any of those four shirts. I can get you pretty much any size you want, as the local sports store has many different sizes in stock.
I post blog entries every day. All you have to do is leave a comment or retweet my blog link on twitter.
So, again, 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. If you’d comment three times on the same blog posting, it would could as one.
2) Retweet (RT) my posts on Twitter
You can find me on twitter under 333greystreet. Simply retweet my daily posts of my blog link 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 who’s retweeted me and enter those users into a hat along with the commenters. By the way, you do not need to retweet my every tweet, only the tweets that announce a new blog post and url. For example, if I tweeted, ‘Rerun of the Pirates Opening Day 2011 on tonight,’ if you retweeted it, it wouldn’t count as an entry.
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.
Also, I’ve decided to giveaway more shirts this week based on the performance of my blog. For each day that my blog gets over 1,000 views, I’ll choose another Phillies shirt winner at the end of this week. So, I could possibly be giving away seven Phillies shirts this week.
Why spend $25 in a store or $15 on ebay when you can get them for free here?
Since my blog began in 2008, I’ve had four days that I’ve had over 1,000 views, with my busiest day coming back in April 2011 when I had 11,441 views.
That’s because of THIS VIDEO that I shot.
So far this month, I’ve had a few days where I’ve been between 600-700 views, but haven’t been able to break that elusive 1,000 barrier in a day yet this year.
Maybe all of the Phillies fans out there will change that. Maybe a Phillies player will tweet this giveaway to Phillies fans and make me honor my offer and give away a bunch of shirts. I hope so.
Anyhow, my question is, in an NL East consisting of the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals, and Mets, where do you think the Phillies will finish?
If you have them finishing first? How far do you think they go in the playoffs? If they’re not winning their division, who is?
I think the Phillies are too good of a team to not win the division. The Marlins and Nationals are much improved and will be major players this year, so I don’t think the Phillies will win 102 games again this year, but they’ll be in the mid 90’s and well on their way to another shot at the World Series.
There’s only 45 days until opening day, and 12 days the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies).
For the fifth year in a row, I decided to make the trek to Spring Training in Florida. However, this year, I would travel with my girlfriend Amy instead of my dad, who is recovering from surgery.
There was some early airport drama, where we arrived at the security checkpoint 12 minutes prior to the boarding of our plane due to flooding of rivers in Pittsburgh which led to the closing of 376 west, the highway that leads us to the airport. However, Amy did some smooth talking to a TSA agent and got us moved to the front of a lengthy security line, and we arrived at our gate just as the plane began boarding.
We arrived in Tampa at 10:30 and awaited our first spring training game the next day.
We arrived at McKechnie Field bright and early at 9AM and took the obligatory picture in front of the stadium:
And in front of a Spring Training sign posted there:
After taking several more photos, we walked around to the back of McKechnie Field, where I would do my ballhawking for the day.
We actually got there too early, as the cage wasn’t even up yet,
and the players were just starting to stretch
and have a meeting in the outfield.
Batting practice wouldn’t even get started until about an hour later around 10AM, as the players would do some baserunning drills and infield work first.
That left us ample time to explore the area behind the outfield wall. There were a few changes from last year in the area behind the fence.
First, there were a bunch of picnic tables installed, which would lead to crazy bounces and limited range if a ball hit in that area.
Second, the garage where two mechanics used to work on cars had apparently been bought out by the Boys and Girls Club, as evidenced by the logo on the side of the building. This would lead to decreased competition, as the mechanics would typically try and compete for baseballs and subsequently sell them for $3 each at their garage.
Finally, an orange fence was installed to protect bus windows from being shattered by baseballs, and a basketball hoop had been erected in the area.
We made our way behind the old garage,
and over to the area behind the batter’s eye in center field.
All the while, I was keeping an eye out for easter eggs, but there were none.
In the area behind the wall in right center field, there is a small practice field.
After a while, Pirates pitchers came out to do some PFP, Pitcher’s Fielding Practice. Working with pitching coach Ray Searage, the pitchers first worked on taking grounders and making a throw to second base.
Then, they fielded bunts and threw the balls to third base.
Finally, the pitchers took line drive comebackers. The players appeared to be having fun, but none as much as Searage who was extremely cheery and enthusiastic.&nbs
This was my view from the security fence. I didn’t bother any of the players by calling out to them or getting their attention, I just stood and watched.
My girlfriend took a video, about halfway through or so, Evan Meek recognizes me and waves to me. You’ll also see Joel Hanrahan say hello to me. Both of the pitchers were very kind to me at batting practice and have had conversations with me on several occasions.
Check it out in Amy’s video:
There still wasn’t much going on, so I took a video of the area behind McKechnie Field.
Check it out:
Batting practice wouldn’t start for another 30 minutes or so, and the waiting took forever. There was a lot of standing around.
Followed by some pacing.
It allowed Amy to take some random photos, such as this one of a squirrel:
Or this one of an inch worm.
When batting practice finally got underway, it was more of the same. Standing around.
At McKechnie Field, you can’t see the ball until its about to leave the field. I absolutely hate it. It’s very tedious. Imagine doing that for two hours. I was kind of frustrated with the whole process, but I had my girl there to keep me calm.
There were only two competitors there with me. A man in a Barry Bonds shirt,
and his friend.
The two worked as a team. Later, they would be seen selling the balls on the street as we exited the stadium.
They stayed close to the secondary fence and had that whole area covered thanks to a 20 foot long ball retrieving device:
Since they played up, I waited back for any balls that would clear both fences. Unfortunately, there was NO wind at all today, so most fly balls died in left field before even reaching the fence.
I did get my first ball of the day near the end of the Pirates’ batting practice. Amy spotted it first and shouted “Erik! Erik! Erik!” and pointed towards the building. A ball had landed on the roof.
It rolled off the roof and I raced over to scoop it up before ballhawk #2 could get there.
Their session was ama
zingly disappointing. Since the Phillies had a split squad today, they brought all of their scrubs, and very few home runs were hit.
To pass the time, the guy in the Barry Bonds shirt offered to play catch with me.
Near the end of the Phillies’ BP, a batter crushed a home run that bounced on the pavement and into the cypress tree moss above. I crouched down and used my glove to snag it on the bounce.
Moments later, presumably the same batter struck again and ripped a home run that landed in the same place as ball #1, on the roof. I raced over and grabbed ball #3.
That would be all that I would get today. Three balls. I had fun with Amy, but I really disliked ballhawking in this venue. Not being able to see anything takes away a lot of the fun and skill needed. Despite having tickets to tomorrow’s Red Sox / Pirates game, I vowed not to return to McKechnie to ballhawk again.
Some pictures from the game:
The field from our seats, in Sec 8, Row 1.
Ahead of us was Pirates president Frank Coonelly who looked visibly agitated at the amount of runs given up, as well as four misplayed balls by outfielders during the first three innings.
I really like Ross Ohlendorf, but he didn’t have his best stuff today, and four missed catch-able balls by outfielders didn’t help his cause. Keep your head up Ross. That’s what Spring Training is for.
Pedro Alvarez has put on some weight and his range looks very limited, but I only saw two balls hit to him that he didn’t get to, so I’ll have to see a larger sample size to say for certain if he’ll be a liablilty at third.
Lyle Overbay, the Pirates new first baseman. Hopefully he brings a line of .275-20-85 this year at least. We’ll see.
The Phillies didn’t bring many of their regulars, but at least Ryan Howard was there.
Ryan Howard at bat:
Pedro Alvarez digs in. I’m hoping for 35 home runs from Pedro this year, but I fear it may come with a .240 average and lots of strike outs. He’s still young though.
Neil Walker, the Pirates’ second baseman at the plate:
And finally a panorama of McKechnie Field from our seats:
We left after a few inning
s to go enjoy ourselves in Florida.
We headed to the beach.
There weren’t too many people there.
We went for a long walk. And found lots of sea shells.
We eventually came to parts of the beach where there weren’t any people around. So we went exploring.
The second best highlight of going back there was finding a Sting Ray skeleton. Check it out:
We found it here:
I was late to this game due to a prior commitment. By the time I got to the gate, the line had swelled to the back of the Clemente Bridge. The Pirates only employ one ticket scanner for the first half hour, so this was going to take forever to get into the stadium.
I stood in line impatiently until 5:02, thinking about all of the missed opportunities. I then remembered the Trib Total Media Hall of Fame club entrance. Its the team’s restaurant entrance, and it opens at 5. I hurried over to the Hall of Fame Club entrance, and there was no line. I immediately had my ticket scanned, grabbed a t-shirt (It was a T-shirt Thursday), hopped on the elevator, and hustled through the restaurant to the stairway that led down to left field. I was able to make it into the bleachers by 5:06.
I got ball #1 from Pirates reliever Chris Bootcheck. A ball rolled to the wall, and I moved down to the front row, and put in a polite request. Chris turned and threw me the ball. I was on the board.
There was only one right handed batter in the Pirates’ last BP group – Brian Bixler, and I would have to wait for the Phillies to come out and hit to get some more baseballs.
Yesterday, the first group was all right handed batters, and it was an amazing round of non stop home runs. However, today, there were three lefties in the first group, thereby cutting down on hit ball opportunities.
I caught ball #2 off the bat of Jason Werth. I had moved back two rows from where I usually stand, since Werth hits for decent power. He hit a home run into section 136. I ranged to my right. The ball was just out of the reach of another ballhawk, and I was able to make the grab.
When a left handed batter came up to hit, I noticed that Matt Stairs was coming over to the left field corner to pick up three baseballs. I went down to the front row and asked Matt for a ball. He hooked me up with ball #3. He also tossed the other two balls into the stands. What a good guy.
Soon, I noticed a gap shot that rolled to the 410 sign in left center field near the bullpen. Cole Hamels was making his way over to pick the ball up, but another ball was hit at him, causing him to momentarily forget about picking up the ball at the base of the wall. I quickly went over and glove tricked the ball, for ball #4 of the day.
Ball #5 was a home run that landed in the section near the foul pole. I ran over and picked the ball up off of the ground. It had bounced back towards the field, hit a bleacher, and began rolling right towards me. I have no idea who hit it.
Pedro Feliz provided me with ball #6. He hit a home run right at me that I snagged on the fly.
It was now 5:30, and season ticket holder time was ending. The first 30 minutes of batting practice is much easier to get baseballs, because there is virtually no one there. At 5:30, a throng of fans sporting Phillies gear descended upon the bleacher area. I decided that I was going to leave the area and head over to right field.
I boxed out another fan in pursuit and picked up ball #7 of the day, #500 of my career. Not exactly the greatest way to snag a milestone ball, but I got the job done.
About half way through this year I had set career ball #500 as a
secondary goal to snagging 300 in 2009. With these goals met, I could
probably make these my two new goals:
1) Snag 63 balls in September, so as to get to 400 balls in 2009.
2) Snag career ball #1,000 before the end of next season (2010).
A few rounds later, I would go on to catch ball #8, a line drive that found its way directly to me. I made the two handed catch and got a nice little round of applause from a group of Phillies fans sitting behind me.
I stayed on the right field wall for the third group, which included Matt Stairs, but got shut out for the round. Stairs hit two balls directly at me, but they completely cleared the right field wall, and ended up floating in the Allegheny River.
For the Phillies’ final batting practice group, I headed back over to left field. It was packed.
I wouldn’t be able to have much range at all. Predictably, I wasn’t able to catch any home runs, as there were maybe three hit during the round, and none of them were in my vicinity.
Batting practice then ended, and I was stuck on nine balls. I needed to get one more. Double digit games are rare, and this would be my sixth career game snagging 10 or more balls if I could somehow just snag one more.
Then, I saw it. A ball had been left on the warning track in center field. An easy glove trick job and I would have 10 balls on the day. I made my way over, but there was some new female usher that told me I wasn’t allowed to be in the section without a ticket. Realizing arguing would get my no where, I decided to let that ball go. There was another ball that had been eating away at me for some time.
It’s been there at least a month. A ball has been tucked in the far corner on top of a concession building in the outfield concourse.
I had decided that I was going to snag that ball today, as I didn’t want to let any more time pass, as the ball was likely deteriorating as time went by.
I had placed a cup at the end of my river device, which is a ten foot pole. I climbed up the stairs, looked on top of the roof, and stretched out the pole to the maximum length. However, I was coming up just short of being able to reach the ball. Frustrated and feeling my opportunity get away, I stood on the railing to try and reach the ball. Then, the cup fell out. I was screwed.
I walked down to the concourse, collected my thoughts, and …
got the ball. At my descretion, I’ve chosen not to reveal the details, but I’ve got a witness in my friend Nick. The ball will count as an easter egg – which will count as a hit ball. The ball ended up not being a device ball after all.
My arms got filthy from this snag. Also notice that the ball had started to detiorate a little bit. The leather had dried out signicantly, and it was also faded a bit. It didn’t matter, it was ball #10.
Game: 10 balls (6 hit, 3 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 337 balls (178 hit, 99 thrown, 60 device)
Games: 69 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.88 balls per game
Career: 503 balls
Career Double Digit Games: 6
Streak: 84 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Those of us at PNC Park during the Season Ticket Holder time were under siege by the Phillies first batting practice group today.
Batting practice started out calmly, well, because the Pirates were hitting. I would go on to get only one ball during this time from Ross “The Boss” Ohlendorf. A ball rolled to the wall and I politely asked for the ball. He looked at me and tossed me ball #1.
The first group yesterday included several lefties. Today, they were all right handed batters, and they were raking. There were only maybe two dozen of us there, since it was still season ticket holder only time, so there was plenty of running around up until 5:30.
I caught ball #2 off of the bat of Pedro Feliz on the fly. I had to run down to the second row to
I can’t operate without my Iphone. They were able to pull the card out and clean it. The phone them worked perfectly – and they didn’t charge me.
Only 7 more balls to go until career ball #500…
Game: 8 balls (5 hit, 3 thrown)
Season: 327 balls (172 hit, 96 thrown, 59 device)
Games: 68 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.81 balls per game
Career: 493 balls
Streak: 83 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
The Pirates are out of town until July 17th, which would mean 17 days without a baseball game for me. I decided to break up the drought by attending a game in Philadelphia.
I’d never been to a baseball game in Philly before, so I was interested to see what Citizens Bank Park had to offer.
I got to the stadium at 2:35, almost 2 full hours before the gates were to even open. I figured that I would give myself some extra time to account for traffic and to stop for lunch. (I ended up not stopping because my GPS directed me to a non-existent phantom Wendy’s. Frustrated, I decided to eat at the stadium.) I was there so early, that the parking attendant thought I worked at McFadden’s.
The first matter of business was to find an open ticket window and buy a ticket for today’s game. I walked past the first base entrance
then realized that the Reds had many more righties than lefties, and I’d have a better chance back in the packed left field seats.
Brandon Phillips put on a show in batting practice. One of his home runs came right to me, I was camped underneath it, ready to make the catch, when at the moment the ball was several feet from my glove, about 5 people’s arms slammed into mine. My arm moved, and the ball tipped off my glove. I didn’t get the ball. Fans in Philadelphia are much more agressive when it comes to going a
fter home run balls in batting practice than in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. In Pittsburgh, us ballhawks spread out and have our own little zones that we tend to stay in. We never run into each other or rob each other of home runs when another is camped under one. Next time I go to a game in Philly I’ll be prepared.
I was shut out for the rest of batting practice and ended with 2 baseballs.
I walked around the concourse. I liked how the Phillies post their line up on a large brick wall at the entrance to the left field gate:
The Phillies top 2 stars for my money:
The Liberty Bell (which gongs after a Phillies player goes deep):
Here was my view from my seat:
The Phillies would go on to knock out starter Johnny Cueto in the first inning and score an amazing 10 runs in the first inning. They would go on to win the game 22-1. I don’t think I’ve ever attended such a lopsided game.
I made my back to my hotel in Philadelphia. (Which didn’t have Internet). Ran a few miles on the treadmill in the fitness center, did 31 floors on a stairmaster, and went to bed.
I then disappeared for the next week (which is why its taken me a week to get this entry up) to the shore.
Game: 2 balls (2 hit)
Season: 226 balls (119 hit, 75 thrown, 32 device)
Games: 46 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.91 balls per game
Career: 392 balls
My dad and I left our hotel at 9:50 this morning to see the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton FL. The plan was to get there early and attempt to snag some home run balls in batting practice. Even though McKechnie Field doesn’t have an outfield seating area, there’s a narrow walkway behind the left field fence. I was planning on standing on this sidewalk and chasing down any home runs that came may way.
If you notice in the picture below, the wind was blowing straight out to left between 30-50mph. Little particles kept flying in my eyes and I was kicking myself for not bringing my sunglasses.
I soon abandoned my plan to roam the walkway pictured above. It was too narrow, and I had absolutely no chance of seeing home run balls coming. I moved a bit more toward left center where there was a parking lot for an adjacent school. Competition was slim, as you can see in the picture below. My dad went back to the left field foul pole to watch some batting practice. I heard him yell, “ERIK!” Then I heard some crackling branches above my head. Ball #1 dropped out of the trees and I quickly pounced on it. Another minute later my dad yelled my name again, and another ball crashed through the trees and I fielded it was it bounced off a root. It was Ball #2.
Although I got the first two balls to come out this way, I wasn’t happy that I didn’t see either of them coming. I couldn’t pick the ball up by standing where I was. Before, I was standing too close to the fence. I had no contrast to pick the ball up except the light blue high. I moved farther back.
My dad came back from the foul pole and decided to patrol the area near the school beneath the trees.
This was my spot for much of BP. If you’re wondering why I’m wearing a Phillies hat, its because the only Pirate hat I brought was the one Ian Snell threw me on 9-21-08, and I didn’t want to get that one sweaty.
Soon, another Home Run Ball came out. I had crept in a bit, and that proved to be a mistake. The ball hit about 10 feet in front of me and took a huge hop over my head. My dad was in position to make the snag, but the second bounce went over his head too and hit off of the white shed in the picture below. I ran the ball down, it was ball #3.
Besides the guy in the Phillies jersey a couple pictures up, there were a few entrepreneurial ballhawks in attendance today. They were rough looking locals who caught balls and sold them on the street for $4 or $5. Whenever these guys got a ball, they would take out a brush and doctor the balls up. I was told later by some guy that they bleached the balls to make them look brand new. They also dominated balls that landed within the fence which you can see in the first picture. They had 6 foot sticks that they would inch the balls closer to the fence, and then squeeze the ball under the fence. I could’ve had maybe 2 more balls today if I had a way to get these balls. There were 3 of these guys and a little kid. They didn’t hang around for long though. I continued to wait patiently for my next opportunity.
I got Ball #4 a bit later. It was a home run ball that hit off a palm tree and had lost most of its momentum. It started rolling towards me in the parking lot with one of the hustler ballhawk bleachers in pursuit. I charged the ball like an infielder charges a slow roller and got to it just in time.
Another ball came out soon after that my Dad chased down for his first career batting practice home run ball. He is hoping to get another one tomorrow for one of his nephews.
Batting practice then ended. I had got 4 balls, but I wasn’t done yet. Next to where I had been standing was a school. The school was directly behind the left field wall. The roof of the school was completely flat, meaning balls that were hit on the school stayed on the school. Before leaving, I had looked around for any “Easter Eggs.” There was one behind the batter’s eye in Center Field, but it was a good 15 feet beyond the fence. Impossible to get. I walked over to right center field. There were a good 7 balls laying on the Pirates infield practice field. No one was around at all, but the gates were locked. I waited for a bit and then got an 8 foot long 2×4 off of a scrap heap.
I tried to reach it with the 2×4 board, but couldn’t because the roof was too high and I couldn’t get enough leverage. I needed to be able to stand on something and I would be able to get it.
My dad had the idea of moving over a wooden picnic table for me to stand on.
I couldn’t see the ball, so with my dad telling me “left, right” etc, I was able to get ball #5.
I was pleased with 5 balls
for my first time snagging in Bradenton. It was a completely different experience than what I am used to. Not being able to see the ball until it was landing made it fun to chase the balls down. It also gave those with some agility an advantage. There was also a lot of luck involved. There was some 80 year old guy walking in from the parking lot who got a home run ball that clanked off a branch, took a soft bounce on the concrete and right into his hand.
The Bradenton ballhawk experience is much like the Chicago Cubs’ Waveland Avenue experience. You really can’t see the ball until the last second, and then you have to scramble to chase it down. It was fun.
On to the game:
The Pirates gave most of their regulars the day off. The only regular today was Adam LaRoche. Many regulars were given off due to the night game yesterday. I was a little disappointed. At least the Phillies brought all of their stars. Ian Snell was on the mound for the Pirates. The Pirates ended up winning the game 10-4, fueled by Andrew McCutchen’s 5 for 5 day. There were some towering home runs in the game, including a Ryan Howard shot that cleared the batter’s eye.
I’ll close this entry with some action shots from today’s game:
Jamie Moyer vs Craig Monroe:
Andrew McCutchen close up:
Tomorrow I will head to Tampa FL to see the Pirates take on the New York Yankees at George Steinbrenner Field.