Recently, the Nationals made news when they signed Ryan Zimmerman to a $100 million, six year contract extension that runs through 2019. The deal featured a full no trade clause, and made him the highest paid third baseman in the game behind Alex Rodriguez.
I’m giving away a shirt each week as we head to opening day.
To date, I’ve given away away a Matt Wieters shirt to Joey Orr,
a Brandon Phillips shirt to Matt Jackson,
a Dustin Pedroia shirt to Stephen D,
a Phillies shirt to Connor,
and this Dodgers shirt shirt to Matt Jackson.
This week, I’m giving away this Ryan Zimmerman shirt:
It says Nationals across the chest:
And has Zimmerman’s name and number on the back.
A great shirt for a Nats fan, or for a ballhawk that might want to throw this on when the Nationals are taking BP to get a few balls tossed their way. (If you’re in Pittsburgh, that would be early Mat when the Nationals visit PNC Park).
The winner can choose their shirt in a Medium, Large, or 2XL.
With the option, the contract will keep Zimmerman in a Nationals uniform through 2020, his age 35 season. What does everyone think of the contract? Too much?
The Nationals handed out a $126 million, 7 year deal to Jayson Werth, and it turned out to be disastrous after only one year. Werth is a mere shadow of the player he was before signing the deal. Hopefully Zimmerman doesn’t become injured or just fade – because that would seriously hinder the Nationals ability to compete for the next six years. The Nats are going to need to come up with big time cash to keep Stephen Strasburg in a few years, and will probably want to lock up Bryce Harper too.
By the way, here’s how you win the shirt:
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 myself choose a name from a hat and announce the winner.
It’s been a busy day around here with more season tickets arriving, buying MLB The Show 2012, and keeping up with spring training box scores!
There’s only 30 more days until Opening Day!
I’ve been posting 2012 MLB Previews for each division throughout the past two weeks. In case you missed it, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, and AL West preview by clicking on the links provided.
It’s time to move onto the National League. First up, is the NL East.
I’ve also included 2012 Predicted statistics from the 2012 Major League Baseball Yearbook and Fantasy Guide.
1ST Place: Philadelphia Phillies (My prediction: 95-67)
This Philadelphia Phillies were the top team in 2011, winning 102 games, before losing in the first round of the playoffs. Over the past five years, the Phillies have only improved during the regular season, winning 89 games in 2007, then 92, 93, 97, and 102. However, I am predicting that they regress a little bit in 2012, thanks to a strengthened National League Eastern Division.
The Phillies have one of the best rotations in the game, despite losing Roy Oswalt.
Anchored by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels – the Phillies shouldn’t experience and losing streaks longer than three games.
The Phillies also added Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason to close games out. Papelbon is one of the top relievers in the game, despite his 2011 finale against the Orioles, where he blew the game and the season for the Red Sox.
The Phillies have a decent offense. Ryan Howard is coming off of an injury, and had a bit of an offseason in 2011, hitting just .253 with 33 home runs.
Chase Utley has been in decline the past three years, each year worst than the last. To be fair, he has been riddled with injuries over the past two seasons. He hit just .259 with 11 homers last season.
I’m not thrilled with Placido Polonco as the Phillies third baseman. Third base is a power position, and Polonco is a contact hitter. He hit .277 with 5 HR and 50 RBI last year, along with a .335 on base percentage.
However, the Phillies brought in Ty Wigginton to be a super utility type player, and he could unseat Polonco as the regular starter at third.
Phillies fans have to be upbeat about their outfield. They have John Mayberry in left field, or possibly Laynce Nix… Shane Victorino in centerfield and Hunter Pence in right field.
For me, I’m most intrigued with Jim Thome signing with the Phillies. Thome hasn’t played the field much in recent years, but I’m hoping that he gets some time at first base, and isn’t just a pinch-hit only type guy like Matt Stairs was the final few years of his career.
Here’s their 2012 statistical projections.
C Carlos Ruiz .289-6-43
1B Ryan Howard .259-29-98
1B Jim Thome .266-14-43
2B Chase Utley .279-20-74
3B Placido Polanco .284-6-52
3B Ty Wigginton .258-10-34
SS Jimmy Rollins .279-19-74
LF John Mayberry .261-24-77
CF Shane Victorino .272-18-67
RF Hunter Pence .302-23-91
SP Roy Halladay 19-8, 2.42 ERA, 234 IP, 212 K
SP Cliff Lee 19-8, 2.89 ERA, 221 IP, 210 K
SP Cole Hamels 14-10, 3.11 ERA, 191 K
SP Vance Worley 12-8, 3.90 ERA, 135 K
SP Joe Blanton 5-4, 4.66 ERA, 100 IP, 81 K
RP Jonathan Papelbon 3.34 ERA, 30 saves, 65 IP, 80 K
RP Antonio Bastadro 3.43 ERA, 3 saves, 60 IP, 74 K
2nd place: Atlanta Braves (My prediction 87-75)
The Atlanta Braves are going to battle it out with the Marlins and Nationals all season long for a wild card spot. For me, the Braves starting rotation gives them a slight edge.
Tim Hudson is 36 years old, but figures to be the ace of the staff, after posting a 16-10 record with a 3.22 ERA in 2011.
The Braves also welcome back Jair Jurrjens in 2011, despite trying to trade him and Martin Prado for most of the offseason. Jurrjens had a 2.96 ERA last season.
Tommy Hanson began spring training a bit banged up after being in an accident, but his concussion like symptoms should be cleared up by opening day. Hanson struggled at times in 2011, posting a 3.60 ERA.
Brandon Beachy led the Braves last year with 169 strikeouts, and continues the trend of top to bottom rotational depth on the Braves.
For their fifth starter, the Braves will choose either Julio Teheran or Mike Minor. With a rotation like they have lined up, its hard not to choose them as second in the division, no matter how much I don’t like them.
Offensively, the Braves have some stars with Brian McCann behind the plate (24 HR in ’11)
and Dan Uggla (36 HR) at second. Uggla couldn’t hit his weight for much of the season before going on an impressive 33 game hitting streak to salvage his season.
The Braves also have some questions marks. Will Chipper Jones be able to play regularly at a high level? He’s 40 years old now, and hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup regularly for two years now.
Will Jason Heyward’s reconstructed swing hasten him back to the days of 2010 when he was a star rookie? Or will he struggle again like he did in 2011? (.227/14/14)
Will Matt Diaz defy all odds and actually hit a home run?
How will Tyler Pastornicky do? He could be the team’s opening day shortstop.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Brian McCann .263-22-70
1B Freddie Freeman .296-22-83
2B Dan Uggla .253-36-90
3B Chipper Jones .268-18-67
SS Tyler Pastornicky .256-4-29
LF Martin Prado .271-15-67
CF Michael Bourne .290-2-51
RF Jason Heyward .255-19-66
SP Tim Hudson 17-10, 3.05 ERA, 224 IP, 155 K
SP Jair Jurrjens 15-10, 3.57 ERA, 209 IP, 137 K
SP Tommy Hanson 15-8, 3.82 ERA, 177 IP, 171 K
SP Brandon Beachy 11-8, 3.78 ERA, 179 IP, 187 K
SP Julio Teheran 9-6, 4.01 ERA, 126 IP, 70 K
RP Craig Kimbrel 1.81 ERA, 35 saves, 70 IP, 118 K
RP Jonny Venters 2.35 ERA, 3 saves, 84 IP, 88 K
3rd place: Miami Marlins (My prediction 85-77)
The Marlins went on a spending spree this winter as they move into a new stadium this year. Despite losing out on the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, they did manage to sign impact free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. It’s full steam ahead for the Marlins in 2012.
The Marlins offense looks to be quite good. They’ve got John Buck, who has power, but struggles to hit for average behind the plate. He only hit .227 last year.
Gaby Sanchez is a solid first baseman offensively – he hit 19 homers last year. He’s no Albert Pujols, but he’s respectable. At least he throws a mean clothesline. Ask Nyjer Morgan.
Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio could share time at second base in 2012. Bonifacio could also spend time in the outfield, displacing Chris Coghlan.
Hanley Ramirez will garner some attention as he moves from shortstop to third base. Ramirez appeared to be upset with the move at first, which was necessitated when the Marlins traded for Reyes. However, he seems to be warming up to the idea of playing third, and hopefully his bat warms too, because he was bad last year. The former All Star only hit .243 with 10 homers.
Jose Reyes was the batting champ last year, and probably the third best free agent behind Pujols and Prince Fielder in 2012. He brings speed and excitement to the Marlins.
The outfield looks solid at the corners with Mike Stanton on track to have another monster year. He launched 34 home runs in 2011, and figures to hit even more as he continues to age and progress as a player. He’s only 22 years old after all.
Logan Morrison, known more for his antics off the field with his zany twitter alter-ego LoMo, hopes to make a name for himself on it as well this year. He did well in 2011, hitting 23 home runs, but saw his average dip to .247.
In center field, Emilio Bonifacion will play, or possibly Chris Coghlan. Coghlan was injured much of 2011, hitting only .230. Some would say it’s karma after this incident involving fellow ballhawker the Happy Youngster. Coghlan went on to win the rookie of the year, while the Happy Youngster got a bad rep and faded away from the ballhawking scene. Maybe the Youngster makes a comeback in ’12?
As far as their rotation is concerned, the Marlins look like they’ll be decent, but not great.
Josh Johnson is returning from an injury, but has the talent to be a front line starter. He had a 1.64 ERA in 9 starts before being injured last season.
Mark Buehrle is a proven veteran that is a solid #2 starter.
Behind those two, the Marlins have Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez. Nothing spectacular, but acceptable as starters.
Interestingly, the Marlins traded for Carlos Zambrano. After a rocky career in Chicago, things have been quiet so far on the Zambrano front.
At the back of the bullpen, they’ve got Heath Bell to close things out. Bell had 43 saves for a poor Padres team in 2011, so he could do even better in 2012.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C John Buck .241-17-66
1B Gaby Sanchez .262-18-76
2B Omar Infante .290-10-59
3B Hanley Ramirez .291-22-91
SS Jose Reyes .318-10-52
LF Logan Morrison .250-24-80
CF Emilio Bonifacio .292-4-31
RF Mike Stanton .265-38-97
SP Josh Johnson 14-6, 2.54 ERA, 226 IP, 216 K
SP Mark Buehrle 13-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 103 K
SP Ricky Nolasco 13-12, 4.60 ERA, 205 IP, 168 K
SP Anibal Sanchez 9-10, 3.64 ERA, 180 IP, 169 K
SP Carlos Zambrano 11-10, 4.52 ERA, 163 IP, 120 K
RP Heath Bell 2.64 ERA, 41 saves, 65 IP, 65 K
RP Juan Oviedo 4.00 ERA, 4 saves, 63 IP, 59 K
4th place: Washington Nationals (My prediction: 84-78)
The Nationals are an improved team over last year, they added Edwin Jackson and are getting Stephen Strasburg back from an injury that cost him most of 2011.
The Nationals were unlucky and lost out on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes to Detroit and are stuck with Adam LaRoche as their first baseman. LaRoche should not get Nationals fans excited. Based on his track record, he will be abysmal until the All Star break and then recover to finish with a slightly above average line. I’ve seen it in Pittsburgh. Us Pirates fans were expecting 40 HR and 100 RBI with the short right field fence, but it never came close to happening with LaRoche. If LaRoche really bombs in his rebound year from injury, the Nats could put Mike Morse at first base and open up a spot in the outfield for Bryce Harper.
Wilson Ramos, acquired from the Nationals for ex-Pirates reliever Matt Capps survived a harrowing ordeal during the offseason when he was kidnapped at gunpoint and held captive. Thankfully, he was rescued without injury and looks to follow up a 15 HR, .445 slugging season with another decent offensive showing.
The Nationals have a power source at second base in Danny Espinosa. He slugged 21 homers last year despite hitting just .236.
Ryan Zimmerman just signed a $100 million dollar contract to keep him in a Nationals uniform til 2020. That’s a serious commitment to what many in the Nationals brass consider the face of the franchise. Zimmerman was injured for part of 2011, and hit only 12 homers – but if healthy, he’s capable of putting up 25-30 HR on the board while playing excellent defense. He’ll want to prove to everyone that he’s worth the $100 million. Although one baseball writer tweeted, “$100 million is an awful lot for a one time all-star.”
In the outfield, the Nationals are set with Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth. Werth was terrible in 2011. He may have hit 20 homers, but Nationals fans expected more power, and certainly better than a .232 batting average and .389 slugging percentage. Werth was one of the best players in the league before signing with the Nationals. His statistics took a nosedive once he joined the team. He is one of several reasons why the Nationals could be the surprise team in 2012. Can he return to the Werth that roamed the outfield for the Phillies?
Michael Morse is probably my favorite Nationals player. If you get the chance to go to a Nationals game, simply stand in left center field and get ready to be bombarded with home run balls. The guy is a monster. He reminds me a lot of Mike Stanton in terms of body structure and pure power. After hitting .303/31/95 in 2011, he could be a candidate to hit 40 homers.
A major question in the Nationals outfield leading into 2012 is if Bryce Harper will be the starting right fielder in 2012. Manager Davey Johnson said the 19 year old has a chance. If he makes the team, expect the same level of hype to follow Harper around that Stephen Strasburg had back in 2010.
In terms of the rotation, its much improved after the signing of Edwin Jackson to an 11 million dollar one year contract. Personally, I don’t think much of Jackson after he spurned the Pirates 3 year $30 million offer to accept less money with the Nationals. He’s an excellent #2 pitcher though.
The ace of the Nationals is Stephen Strasburg and he may be babied again in 2012 as the Nats seem terrified of him getting injured again. If Strasburg weren’t on strict pitch counts, his strike out numbers could be ridiculous. However, he still has amazing stuff and should baffle hitters all season long. He’s a special player. I’ll never forget attending his major league debut against the Pirates in Washington DC in June of 2010.
The Nationals’ third starter is Gio Gonzalez, the ex-ace of the Oakland Athletics. He posted a 16-12 record with a 3.12 ERA in the American League last year. Reason states that his ERA should drop a little since he doesn’t have to face the DH in the National League anymore.
The Nationals rest of the rotation is average. At the back end they’ve got Drew Storen to close out games, or possibly new addition Brad Lidge.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Wilson Ramos .269-16-55
1B Adam LaRoche .243-14-56
2B Danny Espinosa .258-23-72
3B Ryan Zimmerman .296-24-81
SS Ian Desmond .261-8-51
LF Michael Morse .300-30-90
CF Roger Bernadina .238-7-30
RF Jayson Werth .245-20-64
SP Stephen Strasburg 13-6, 2.40 ERA, 139 IP, 151 K
SP Gio Gonzalez 16-11, 3.25 ERA, 211 IP, 208 K
SP Jordan Zimmerman 10-19, 4.33 ERA, 141 IP, 102 K
SP Edwin Jackson 13-9, 3.95 ERA, 203 IP, 156 K
SP John Lannan 12-11, 4.01 ERA, 191 IP, 117 K
SP Chien Ming Wang 9-7, 3.83 ERA, 125 IP, 47
RP Drew Storen 3.01 ERA, 38 saves, 81 IP, 81 K
RP Tyler Clippard 2.34 ERA, 0 saves, 85 IP, 100 K
5th place: New York Mets (My prediction 62-100)
The Mets are going to be bad in 2012. They are slashing payroll left and right, and might deal David Wright at the trade deadline this year.
Am I wrong Mets fans? I think they’ll lose 100 games. The division is tough, and they are worse than last year.
David Wright is the long bright spot, but there’s really no one to protect him in the order.
Ike Davis has some pop, but will be be consistent throughout the season?
Then there’s Jason Bay, one of the biggest free agent busts since Barry Zito. After signing a $66 million contract, Bay has done next to nothing. Maybe moving the fences in at Citi Field will help him some.
Andres Torres, a 4th or 5th outfielder on just about every other team, will be the starting center fielder.
Ruben Tejada is no Jose Reyes at shortstop. He has no power, but can hit for an acceptable average near .300.
The rotation pales in comparison to the other four teams in the division. Johan Santana will finally be back after missing an eternity due to injury. If he’s half the pitcher he used to be, he’ll still be the best pitcher on the Mets.
It’s going to be a long year. At least watching RA Dickeys facial expressions and knuckleball should be fun.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Josh Thole .273-4-46
1B Ike Davis .260-20-73
2B Daniel Murphy .318-8-66
3B David Wright .269-20-87
SS Ruben Tejada .288-0-60
LF Jason Bay .252-16-76
CF Andres Torres .237-6-27
RF Lucas Duda .301-13-61
SP Johan Santana 12-7, 2.84 ERA, 162 IP, 142 K
SP Mike Pelfrey 11-11, 4.39 ERA, 193 IP, 106 K
SP Jonathon Niese 10-11, 4.43 ERA, 167 IP, 146 K
SP Dillon Gee 12-10, 4.79 ERA, 179 IP, 134 K
SP RA Dickey 9-12, 3.13 ERA, 201 IP, 125 K
RP Frank Francisco 3.33 ERA, 28 saves, 51 IP, 55 K
RP Jon Rauch 4.05 ERA, 5 saves, 53 IP, 39 K
So, to review, I have:
I think the Braves, Marlins, and Nationals could be pretty much interchangeable though, as they are all similar in talent level.
What are your thoughts?
Leave a comment!
There’s only 37 days until opening day, and 4 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). Also, the first listed Spring Training game on the MLB schedule is tomorrow when the Phillies take on the Seminoles. Also, just five more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.
I wanted to attend a game this weekend, and I had to choose between Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington. My #1 choice was Baltimore, but I wasn’t able to secure a season ticket to get in early, so it wasn’t worth going. Cincinnati was having a Johnny Bench ceremony and statue unveiling, and I was worried that batting practice may not occur because of it. So, in consultation with Nick Pelescak, we headed to Washington DC.
Gloomy skies and chilly air greeted Amy, Olivia, Nick and I when we arrived in Washington DC.
To make matters worse, the Washington Nationals didn’t take batting practice, despite having a picnic in the park for season ticket holders. Basically, they opened up the park for season ticket holders early and let them go wherever they wanted, except for the field. You’d think that the season ticket holders would want to enjoy some batting practice. But no. The Nationals suck. I hate Nationals Park, this was my fourth trip there this year, and its going to be the last one for awhile.
Luckily, I found a ball above the bullpens as I made my way over to foul territory.
In foul territory, I picked a spot about 20 rows back in the middle of a sea of empty sections and called out to Henry Rodriguez who threw me a ball.
It was my second of the day, but more importantly, it was my 400th of the season. In 2009, I snagged 412 baseballs. Last year, it was 544. It marks the first time that any ballhawk had snagged at least 400+ baseballs three consecutive years, so it was a special ball.
Anyhow, the Marlins finally began to hit after I had walked around the park looking for Easter Eggs.
I didn’t find any more.
Anyhow, I spent most of batting practice in the center field seats in Center Field. There’s only two small sections out there, but left field was annoyingly crowded.
Every row was pretty much blocked up, leaving no routes to home run balls.
Oh, I forgot to mention Stephen Strasburg was starting for the Nationals, bringing out 33,000+.
In the center field seats, I was decked out in my Gawd-awful Marlins teal, hoping to get a toss up ball.
After getting ignored by Burke Badenhop several times, I snagged a ground rule double for ball #3. The ball was hit by a lefty, perhaps Logan Morrison, and it was juggled by two other fans, before falling into an empty row behind me, where I grabbed it. This was the view of the field from the spot of the snag:
And here’s where I snagged it:
What a bust. Nick and I, who have snagged over 2,600 between the two of us managed only six combined today. Should’ve gone to Baltimore… or Cincinnati.
Goodbye Washington, I hope I don’t see you next year.
Game: 4 balls (1 hit, 2 thrown, 1 found)
Season: 402 balls (173 hit, 86 thrown, 87 device, 56 found)
Games: 74 games
Average: 5.43 per game
Career: 1,524 balls
Since Amy and I had been in Baltimore the past two days, we decided to attend the Pirates vs Nationals game in Washington DC on our travel day back to Pittsburgh.
We began the day on the pier in Annapolis, where our hotel was located,
and ate lunch at Jimmy John’s, a sandwich shop. I got a turkey sandwich and was grossed out by the weird alfalfa greens that they put on it. I’d never had them, and didn’t want to try them. Gross.
We then went to Washington and Nationals Park.
At the gate, we were first in line, and we ran into Zack Hample, who had made the trip from New York City.
Zack is on a quest to snag 1,000 baseballs in 2011 – and he credited me breaking his record last year (with 544) as a motivational factor in his endeavor.
Upon entering the park, there were no balls to be found as batting practice hadn’t yet begun. I decided to run over to right field,
but found out that it is now closed off until 5:30, thereby negating an hour of batting practice time there.
I went back to left, and noticed a ball in the bullpen, which I attempted to glove trick, but failed three times as I was reeling it in. Jordan Zimmerman and Colin Balester watched in amusement. Zimmerman threw a ball at my glove at one point to mess with me, which actually ended up in a perfect glove trick spot directly below me and to my right.
After failing and having the ball drop and roll away, Zimmerman threw me a ball for my effort.
After that, I had some bad luck, including one clunk off of my glove, as I unnecessarily jumped to catch it. (I was terrified it was going to hit Amy, who was two rows behind me.) Trying to change my luck, even though the Nationals were still batting, I changed into my Pirates gear.
I also met a ballhawk named Alex from New Jersey from mygameballs
and chatted with Zack for a minute or two when there was some down time.
A bit later, I recovered after a few more close calls with this clean catch.
5:30 rolled around, so I ran over to right field. I ran down to the front row and found Ball #4 in the front row.
I also noticed a ball in the gap in right field, so I glove tricked it, this time quickly and successfully for ball #5. I then proceeded to get yelled at by an usher named Beni or Benji or something like that. The same usher later demanded Alex to give away his baseballs because he was getting too many, and actually wasted about three minutes of my time questioning me where he, and that he owed him baseballs. Pretty ridiculous. Especially because I personally watched him pick up at least three around 5:25 before I went over to right field.
I stayed in right field for the rest of BP.
After batting practice, we left and actually got back home just as the game was ending.
Game: 6 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season: 270 balls (113 hit, 56 thrown, 63 device, 29 found)
Games: 46 games
Average: 5.87 balls per game
Career: 1,392 balls (I numbered all the balls wrong yesterday, so the first ball was 1382, which is the one I skipped.)
Today was the make up game of Friday’s rained out contest between the Pirates and Nationals.
When the gates opened, I ran in and found my first ball of the day in the front row near the bullpen.
I only got one other ball during the Pirates portion and it was a home run ball that probably was catchable by myself or Nick, but we both missed it and it bounced back onto the field. Evan Meek picked it up and tossed it to me for ball #2.
I also glove tricked ball #4 in left field when the Nationals were hitting.
My fifth ball of the day was a home run hit by an unknown righty. I made the clean catch here:
I then struck up a conversation with ex-Pirate Tom Gorzelanny. I asked him if he still had all the Dave Matthews Band CDs that I sent him a few years back. He said yeah and then started talking to me about DMB for a bit.
During the conversation, a batter hit a line drive that bounced on the warning track. I snagged it as it skipped off the warning track just to my left without moving or breaking conversation with Gorzelanny.
I was planning on asking him for a ball, and that ground rule double had just ruined it.
Anyway, the Nationals weren’t taking much initiative in collecting the balls from the warning track, so I glove tricked ball #7 here in left field,
and glove tricked #8 in section 141.
I was then tipped off by ex-ballhawk Andrew McDonald about another ball, and glove tricked that one for #9.
My tenth ball of the day was thrown in right field by Doug Slaten, who seemingly hooked up every fan on the wall.
After a few missed opportunities for home runs, I tracked down a Matt Stairs home run for Ball #11 that landed in the second to last row on the wall.
That was all for batting practice.
During the game, I decided to sit in the club seats because there was virtually no one there. Many fans stayed home to watch the Penguins game.
Here’s a view of the field from the club seats:
I had a perfect chance at a foul ball. The place was virtually empty.
In the second inning, new Pirate Brandon Wood made his bucco debut.
He took the first two pitches he saw. On the third John Lannan offering, he took a rip. He fouled the pitch off into the second deck. I jumped out of my seat immediately and went running throw the row to try and make the catch.
Anyhow, it rained on and off throughout the rest of the night, so I spent some time between innings in the club level to stay dry.
Here are today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 12 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 5 device, 1 found)
Season: 77 balls (29 hit, 17 thrown, 21 device, 10 found)
Games: 11 games
Average: 7.00 balls per game
Career: 1,199 balls
2010 through 11 games: 77 balls (0 balls behind last year’s pace)
It was Easter Sunday, so a big crowd wasn’t going to be on hand, which was a bonus. However, the previous night’s game had ended around 11PM, and since today was a day game, the chances of batting practice were slim. Add to the fact that it had drizzled all morning, and there was virtually no chance of batting practice whatsoever.
I got to the ballpark at 11:05 AM, just in time to see three Pirates leaving the bullpen after a side session. Two of the folks at the bullpen fence had baseballs. I had missed an early opportunity.
PNC Park makes everyone stay on the Riverwalk for the first 30 minutes on Sundays, so there wasn’t too much to do. I noticed that someone doesn’t like Andrew McCutchen so much:
I met a couple ballhawks from Ohio. It was a father and son duo. They were friendly and snagged several balls of their own throughout the day.
I set up behind Sean Burnett throwing with Drew Storen. I got Sean Burnett to toss me my second ball of the day after they finished up.
I camped out near a third ball and waited patiently. I asked a coach for it, and he asked if I’d gotten a ball yet. Since it was Easter Sunday, I couldn’t lie. I told him I’d already got one today, but wouldn’t mind another. He threw the ball to another ballhawk, but I was hoping that it would give me some good karma.
After the Nationals were done, I walked around the park to take pictures and look for easter eggs.
Right Field Upper Deck:
Looking out towards the Point:
Abe was in the park, along with the other Nationals mascot Presidents.
Once the game started, I got Andrew McCutchen’s warm up ball in the first inning,
and Garrett Jones’ in the fourth.
That was pretty much it.
A few more random pictures:
Presidents vs Pierogis:
The Build a Bunny we got for our baby girl:
The sweatshirt Amy bought me:
And today’s four baseballs:
By the way, afterwards, we colored easter eggs:
Game: 4 balls (4 thrown)
Season: 65 balls (25 hit, 15 thrown, 16 device, 9 found)
Games: 10 games
Average: 6.50 balls per game
Career: 1,187 balls
2010 through 10 games: 69 balls (4 balls behind last year’s pace)
Today was a Saturday game, so gates opened at 4:30 rather than 5:00. I was probably fourth in line or so. Usually Nick and I play catch on the bridge, but it wasn’t closed off, so I stood and watched two older ballhawks argue about who loves baseball more.
Of course, there would be a threat of rain today, as a cold front passed by dangerously close to Pittsburgh, bringing storms just south of the city. The wind was howling out to left field, which would hopefully benefit me by pushing fly balls out of the park.
Amy left before the gates opened to go to work on the inside of the stadium, but she took some cool pics. This is probably my favorite:
When the stadium opened, I saw a few balls in left field on the foul line and went over to grab them.
When I got to the spot, there were three balls there. One was up against the fence, one was about six feet out, and one was only gettable using the glove trick. Once I got into the seating area, I noticed Nick running right behind me, and he grabbed the one up against the fencing before I could get to it. I was able to reach the one six feet out by leaning out over the fence and grabbing it with my glove. I let the glove trick ball be, as I don’t like using the glove trick while the Pirates are batting.
Balls #3 and #4 were glove tricked off of the left field warning track.
My fifth ball of the day was a home run hit by a Nationals batter. I was starting to get blocked off by fans, so I took the open row five rows back as I tracked the ball. It turned out that it was the perfect row and I caught the ball on the fly.
Ball #6 was a home run that sailed over my head, hit off the facade of the general admission bleachers and carried back to the lower bleachers. I out jumped another ballhawk and snagged the ball on the rebound.
My seventh ball of the day was caught on the fly off the bat of Rick Ankiel in the third row in center field. This was the view.
Ankiel lofted another fly ball two pitches later than I flat out missed. It tipped off of my glove. It was my worst error this year.
At 5:51, the Nationals ran off the field.
The was some light rain that was to arrive around 7PM, so the grounds crew wanted to make sure it had over an hour to put the tarp on the field. It wouldn’t even start drizzling until game time. That’s our grounds crew for you though. It cost us about 25 minutes of batting practice.
The game was delayed an hour and eleven minutes by “rain.”
It actually was barely raining. It was a little mist that terrified the grounds crew. You can tell it was barely raining in the photo above by the amount of fans seated in the outfield sections. If it was raining, they wouldn’t be there.
What a frustrating day. I missed at least five balls including a game home run. This was by far the worst ballhawking day of the year for me.
Here are today’s baseballs:
By the way, I injured myself after batting practice. I had a huge bag and I filled it with 59 Andrew McCutchen Action Figurines, 59 First Pitch Magazines, and 59 Scratch and Win Cards.
The bag was filled to the brim, so I had to carry it in front of me almost a mile to my car. I couldn’t sling it over my shoulder. Anyway, I ended up hurting my back, and having back spasms the rest of the night. I couldn’t even run or jog.
The weight of the bag was about sixty pounds. Carrying it out in front of me with my arms straight forward was definitely a work out.
Game: 7 balls (4 hit, 2 device, 1 found)
Season: 61 balls (25 hit, 11 thrown, 16 device, 9 found)
Games: 9 games
Average: 6.78 balls per game
Career: 1,183 balls
We were back at Nationals Park for another game today.
Hopefully today would be a bit better day for me.
The weather was expected to be a bit warmer with no chance of rain.
Amy was back in charge of the camera, and did a fantastic job taking lots of pictures.
We were again first in line, so to pass the time, Nick and I played catch.
This time, we played catch on the street, so as not to get yelled at by security.
When the gates opened, we ran in to look for baseballs,
but there were none. I made my way over to center field and spotted a ball below, but there were security guards everywhere down there.
I thought about asking them to toss it up, but they were engaged in a conversation. I went and checked the gaps behind the walls, which were empty. When I came back that ball was gone.
Much like yesterday, my day got off to another really slow start. There was a lot of inactivity and waiting.
All I could do is look at Amy with a “this is going to well” look.
I noticed a few balls were landing in the seats in right field, so I hustled over to try and get in on some of the action.
Amy was right behind me to capture the action.
Once there I set up in the third row.
I didn’t have to wait too long as Laynce Nix launched a home run in my direction. I could tell that the ball was going to be a bit short, so I had to scale the row of seats in front of me to catch the ball just above the man in red’s black glove.
Here I am with my first ball of the day.
I headed over to left field with Nick, but it was too crowded, and I got shut out there despite several home runs landing here and there.
I headed back to right field to stay for a majority of the Braves batting practice.
After changing quickly on the concourse, I made my way to right field.
I began cutting through the second row when I ball appeared out of nowhere. Mike Minor randomly flipped a ball up from the warning track. I reacted and caught the ball for my second of the day. There wasn’t anyone else within a few feet of me, so I figured it really wasn’t intended for anyone in particular. Here I am with Mike Minor below:
Despite several Braves batting, I noticed a ball land in the gap in left center field. I decided to go over and glove trick it immediately.
Here I am setting up the glove trick:
I leaned on the glass railing for a moment and pretended to watch BP so as not to bring attention to myself from the security guards. I then lowered my glove over the ball:
And reeled it in.
That was my third ball of the day.
Upon returning to right field, I noticed another ball in the gap between the stands and scoreboard.
I glove tricked that ball too.
I’m was working with a new rubber band and it was working really well. I snagged both glove trick balls in one try.
The rest of batting practice was just a lot of standing around. You can tell by Nick’s body language how slow things were.
Near the end of batting practice, I went over to left field above the bullpen to scope out the balls in the bullpen.
While there, an unidentified Braves player tossed my ball #5.
Batting practice ended, and there were three balls that were gettable in the bullpen. I knew how security was, so I spoke with the usher in the section, “There’s a ball in the bullpen that I can get with my glove,” I said. “Is it ok if I get it?”
“Alright,” She replied, “Imma let you get it.”
I went to work and got the ball to stick in the glove on the first try. Weirdly, the same lady that just gave me permission, came and started yelling at me. “You can’t do that!”
“You just told me that I could get a ball from the bullpen.”
“No! You have to stop.”
“OK, the ball’s stuck in my glove, should I throw it back onto the field or can I keep it?”
She ignored me. So I stuck it in my pocket and let. It was the sixth one of the day.
That would be it for batting practice.
We left the stadium after BP to head back to Pittsburgh.
We headed back to pictures and Amy was still snapping away.
We left sunny 65 degree weather for dreariness.
Here are the baseballs I snagged today:
And the sweet spots:
Season: 9 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device, 0 found)
Games: 2 games
Average: 4.50 balls per game
Career: 1,131 balls
The 2011 baseball season kicked off for me this weekend in Washington DC. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak, my girlfriend Amy, and I headed down for the weekend.
On the way there, winter gave us hopefully, a goodbye, as we traveled through heavy snow in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The roads were untreated, and we had to keep it at 40 mph. It was rather treacherous.
We grabbed some breakfast at McDonalds in Breezewood:
And continued on I-70 east. Once the dawn arrived, the pictures of the snow turned out better, but trust me – the roads were much worse than this:
We got to Washington a little after 9AM, and shelled out $15 to park near the stadium.
The walk was through a construction zone.
I had my phone handy as I was keeping an eye on the weather. It had rained and snowed for most of the trip to Washington DC, and there was a large percent chance of rain today, but according to the weather sites, it looked like it wouldn’t start until around noon or 1PM.
When we reached the intersection across from the stadium, there was thick cloud cover, but it looked like batting practice would be a go.
We paused in front of Nationals Park for a few obligatory photos:
Amy was the photographer for this trip. We were in Washington for two games and she took over 900 photos. She captured mostly everything.
The walk to the center field gate from home plate was extremely cold and windy. When we got to the left field gate, we peered in to see if the cages were up. It was inconclusive.
Walking along the exterior of Nationals Park, I was looking for any new decorations or improvements.
It is probably the blandest most boring stadium I’ve ever seen from the outside.
When I rounded the corner to head towards the center field gate and the ticket offices, I noticed one change. Do you see it?
There were large mirrored baseballs installed on the outside of the stadium/parking garage.
At the main box office, we purchased the cheapest ticket available: $10 each.
I purchased tickets for today’s game and tomorrow’s game as well.
Then we headed over to the center field gate to stake our claim to the front spot in the line.
After getting in line, I organized the string of my glove and tested out a new rubber band.
Then, with forty minutes still to kill before the gates opened, Nick and I threw for a bit.
We caught for maybe ten minutes before someone from the Nationals staff came out and enforced the no having fun unwritten rule that many staff members at MLB parks abide by.
10:30AM finally came and the gates opened. Here was my first view of a major league baseball field in 2011:
Nick and I were the first ones into the stadium, but I didn’t find any Easter Eggs. Nick found 2.
Batting practice probably didn’t begin for at least 10 minutes until after the gates opened. As the players were still warming up down the right field line.
Amy followed us back and forth between left field and right field for two full days taking lots of great shots. Here’s one of the field from center field:
And here Nick and I are in right field at the very beginning of batting practice. I had checked the gaps behind the outfield walls for baseballs that I could glove trick, but there were none there.
Amy got lots of great action shots of the players too, because batting practice started out pretty bad for me.
I got shut out for at least the first two groups if not three.
What would’ve been my first ball of the day was knocked away from me by the kid in blue who cut a row in front of me and knocked the ball to the right where some other fan grabbed it.
Finally, after a long drought, Rick Ankiel hit a towering blast toward right field.
The ball was hit directly between Nick and I who were both in the same row.
Since Nick had already snagged several, he laid back and allowed me to make the clean catch uncontested. Thanks Nick! It was my first ball of the year and first of the 2011 season. It broke a weird streak. In 2009 both Nick and I got our first ball of the year thrown by Ian Snell. In 2010, we both got our first ball of the year off the bat of Bobby Crosby. The streak ended in 2011 when Nick found his first ball and mine was from Rick Ankiel.
Anyway, back in left field, there was a lot of waiting around during the Nationals batting practice. I was expecting Jayson Werth to put on a show during batting practice. He disappointed, exclusively hitting ball after ball to right field, but did hit two home runs. One of which I caught on the fly, high above my head, fully extended.
I had to stay in the third row because those handrails that you see in the picture severely limit my range. Being boxed in by people is bad, but being boxed in by people and handrails is agitating.
Anyhow, soon Nate McLouth hit a dying line drive right at me. I ran down to the front row and made the catch just above the outfield wall for my third ball of the day.
Here I am inspecting the ball.
The Braves batters put a good number of balls into the seats, but I couldn’t get to any of them. Someone was either in front of me: (they are obstructed in the picture)
Or over my head:
Or literally three feet over my head
Or I would get completely robbed.
Amy took so many pictures! But there were so many near misses.
Every time I came close, I had to navigate around railings or people standing in aisles.
And as a result, I’d be too late.
Near the end of batting practice I spotted three balls in the bullpen. They were perfect for the glove trick.
I rigged up my glove and headed over to double my days total in a matter of one or two minutes.
When I got to the bullpen area, the Braves finished their BP and were walking off the field.
The crowd started to thin out. I needed to work fast.
Just as I began to lower my glove, two ushers swooped in and told me I had to stop.
I ended the day with three baseballs.
Amy and I decided that we didn’t want to stay for the game and we’d rather go back to the hotel room for a little bit and then go explore Washington DC. Nick would stay at the game.
Before heading out, we posed for a picture at Nationals Park:
Our hotel was the Renaissance. It is a $409 a night hotel, but we got it for $116 thanks to Priceline.com
Here I am outside of the hotel:
There was an interesting Chinese themed courtyard too:
After all, we were two blocks from Chinatown.
Here’s a snapshot of the room we received:
After some quality time in the hotel room, we decided to explore the lobby and the surrounding area. Amy was super pumped for free lemon water:
We headed out into the city.
We walked around Chinatown.
You really couldn’t miss it with the giant arched entry way.
The picture with the Chinese man wasn’t planned by the way…
Amy made the Chinatown entrance look better.
There was some cool stuff, such as museums on just about every corner,
Amy was pretty pumped about Auntie Anne’s, but we didn’t stop to share our customary Cinnamon Pretzel.
We came across some really creepy areas,
but overall the area was decent. The cherry blossoms added a nice touch to the city streets.
After walking around for awhile, we decided to head over to the Georgetown area to go find DC Cupcakes, a store that Amy had seen on TLC, which has its own series on that network.
On the way there, we passed a Ben & Jerry’s store, which was spewing bubbles all over the road.
Eventually we came to the store that Amy wanted to visit. It was called Georgetown Cupcake. I guess DC cupcakes sounds better as a show title.
We figured that we would park up the street somewhere and then run in and grab a cupcake just to say that we’d been there.
However, upon rounding the corner, we noticed a line.
That extended as far as the eye could see.
So, that was pretty much out of the question. We headed back through Washington DC to go pick Nick up at Nationals Park. It was almost 5PM.
Here’s some shots that Amy took on the drive back. The Cherry Blossoms were out in full bloom!
We arrived back at the hotel after picking Nick up and unpacked all of our things. We would then go out for dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s and get the worst waiter ever.
Strong storms swept through the Pittsburgh area around 3:30 PM, putting batting practice in jeopardy. However, they moved off to the east and the skies cleared by 4:30, so BP was a go for today.
I came into today needing six balls to reach the exclusive 500 balls snagged in one season club. It had only been done twice, by Zack Hample in 2008 and 2009.
Upon running in, I found ball #1 in the front row. I almost passed it by, but noticed fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak running quickly towards the spot, so I double checked, and it was right in front of me. I leaned over and grabbed it for ball #1.
My second ball was thrown to me by Chris Resop. That’s the first ball that I ever got from Resop, so I was glad to add another player to my thrown list. Thanks Chris.
Season: 503 balls (243 hit, 116 thrown, 72 device, 72 found)
Games: 78 games
Average: 6.45 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career: 1,081 balls
Streak: 174 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Balls needed to break single season record: 41