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.
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.