Today was a Sunday game, so batting practice is never guaranteed. However, when I walked past the Left Field gate, I peeked in and saw the screens were set up. It looked like BP would take place after all.
I entered the stadium at 11 AM. The Pirates do not open the stadium 30 minutes early for season ticket holders on Sunday like they do on Monday-Saturday. Therefore, I was stuck on the Riverwalk until 11:30. I was able to watch Todd Wellemeyer pitch his side session in the Cardinals bullpen. After he was done, I shouted down “Could you please toss that ball up?” He tossed it over the 8 foot high screen fence and over me and the crowd of 10 people watching him warm up. Luckily, when he threw it, I knew from the trajectory that it was going to overshoot every one, so I broke back, and fielded the ball as it was rolling on the concrete. It was ball #1.
Around 11:40, the Cardinals decided to take batting practice – Supposedly because batting practice had been cancelled on Friday and Saturday. The Cardinals are never a very good batting practice team for me. They do not hit many home runs. Near the end of their batting practice, I snagged a home run ball in the air. I think it was hit by Brendan Ryan, but I am not positive. It was ball #2 of the day. More importantly, it was ball #111 of the season at PNC Park.
Since the beginning of the season, I had my sights on legendary ball hawk Jim Saylor’s mark of 110. I had a great April and May, routinely getting 4-6 balls per day. However, the summer was rough on me, as I probably averaged around 2 balls or less per batting practice. I had begin to worry that I wouldn’t break his record. It felt good to finally not have to worry about 110 anymore.
Jim is probably the main reason I got into going to batting practice. I went to a couple in 2007 and watched this 50-60 year old man, working without a glove, regularly snag seemingly 4-5 balls per game. I was also taken about by his dedication and enthusiasm for snagging baseballs. I caught my first batting practice ball on the fly from Sammy Sosa when the Pirates were playing the Rangers in June 2007. From then, I was hooked.
Game: 2 balls
Season: 116 balls
Career: 154 balls
Hit List: #4,045th place all time – tied with Kim Batiste
Attendance: 18,994 (49.5% full)
Due to the rainy weekend we’ve had, there was no batting practice today. Last night’s game was delayed over an hour, canceling batting practice, and unfortunately, the same thing happened today.
I still got to the park at 4:30 in hopes that they would have BP, but had no such luck. I put on my Cardinals gear when the Cardinals pitchers came out to start warming up. There was hardly any competition.
When Randy Flores was done tossing, he threw me his warm up ball. I had positioned myself behind him and his catching partner. When he was done, I politely asked for the ball. He looked at me, then looked around, like he was looking for a kid, but couldn’t find another Cardinals “fan” – so he tossed the ball to me. It was ball #1 of the day.
Moments later, Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pinero set up in front of me andstarting throwing with an unidentified pitcher in the outfield. Wellemeyer and Piniero took alternate turns throwing. I once again positioned myself behind them, in order to catch an overthrow. It turns out there was an overthrow, but it hit off of my glove and back onto the field. I stayed put in my spot, and several throws later, a low ball bounced under Wellemeyer’s glove and into my mitt. The pitchers didn’t have any balls, so I asked them, “Do you want me to give it back?” Piniero responded, “Yeah, we’ll give it back to you when we’re done.” Five minutes later, Piniero kept his word and flipped me Ball #2.
That was it. They went into the clubhouse after they were done throwing and were’nt seen again until game time. I was happy with getting two balls on a non-game day.
Game: 2 balls
Season: 114 balls
Career: 152 balls
*I’ve decided to mimic legendary ball hawk Zack Hample and compare my ball totals to the all time hit list. As Hample states, ” it was more fun to chase a human than a lifeless milestone.” With that, 152 balls puts me tied with pitcher Joe Niekro on the all time career hit list (4,065th place all time).
Attendance: 17,132 (44.7% full)