Today was the Mets’ second of four games in Pittsburgh, and my second attempt at getting a commemorative ball.
I got to the gates a little after 4 PM and was second in line. When the gates opened, I jogged into the bleachers and was the first one there. I saw a ball as I entered one of the sections. I quickly ran down and grabbed ball #1, as other ballhawks were right behind me. Much to my surprise…
it was a Shea Stadium commemorative ball from last year. Nice! I still would’ve rather had a Citi Field ball, but I’ll take it.
Moments later as I moved towards the foul pole, I found ball #2. Finding two Easter eggs is an awesome start, usually there aren’t any.
Ball #3 came from Tony Beasley. He made sure that all of the regular ballhawks got a ball today. What a good guy.
When the Mets came out to hit, there weren’t many pitchers shagging in the outfield. A ball was hit to the 410 sign in center field. It was very glove “trickable.” I started to make my way over to get the ball. Just as I got to the bullpen, a deep ball was hit right at me. Mike Pelfrey ran back and made the snag. I thought, “Great. He’s going to pick up that ball too.” Luckily, Pelfrey didn’t see it, and walked back to center field. Moments later, I reeled up ball #4.
I went back towards the foul pole when a fellow ballhawk and PNC Park regular, Dan, pointed out another ball to me. It must have rolled to the 410 sign when I was walking back to my spot. I went over and reeled in ball #5 after one failed attempt. I think I will need a new rubber band soon. The one I have might be getting to stretched out.
In the middle of the Mets batting practice, Gary Sheffield launched a deep home run to my left. I could tell it was a bomb, so rather than positioning myself in line with the ball, I ran back to the cross aisle that seperates the lower bleachers from the upper deck bleachers. The ball hit in the cross aisle and rolled partly under the overhang of the upper level bleachers. I reached down and gloved ball #6.
I made a huge mistake by heading over to center field for the last group. The final group taking batting practice was predominently left handed, so I figured I’d have a better shot. There was only one right handed batter.
Check out how empty batting practice was. There aren’t many people in the left field bleachers.
Within minutes, he was surrounded by security guards. A man in a suit came out with a clipboard and the negotiating began. It lasted about an inning. I’m not sure what the kid asked for, but there were about 4 things written down on the sheet of paper on the clip board.
It got me thinking what I would ask for if I had caught the home run. I decided that I’d ask for a game ball signed by Jaramillo, the chance to deliver the ball to him in person, and his word that he’d toss me 1 ball at any batting practice I attended (if he was in the outfield and I asked for one.)
Later in the game, I was getting
thirsty. I decided to go fill up my water bottle. As I was passing this Nacho Express stand, something caught my eye.
Yes, you guessed it. Another Easter Egg.
I had to almost lay on the ground to get that picture. I had to reach around the side of the stand to get ball #8. People probably thought I was a big weirdo for laying on the ground and reaching under a Nacho Express stand, but when they saw I pulled a ball out, I saw a few surprised faces.
I went back to center field in the ninth inning to try and get Nate’s warm up ball. His throw hit some guys arm, richoted right in front of me, but I wasn’t ready and misplayed it. Some one picked the ball up 2 rows ahead of me.
I then headed to the dugout. I had to run half of the way there, because Matt Capps got 3 quick outs. I just barely made it to the dugout as umpire Ted Barrett was coming off the field, but was in a terrible spot, off to the side of the tunnel. He gave two balls away, but not to me.
That was it for today.
When I arrived home I had this waiting for me:
I had been waiting all day for it, since I was off work today, but it didn’t arrive until after I left for the Pirate game. It was my Super Deluxe copy of Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, Dave Matthews Band’s new album.
The CD was released today, and I had ordered it off of the Warehouse (fan club) so I could get some bonus items.
I spent the rest of my night looking through the booklets and watching the DVD. I didn’t listen to the CD the whole way through until the next day because I wanted to blast it, and it was too late to do that. I’d reccommend picking it up at Target or Best Buy for $9.99 this week. It’s their best album since 1998. Seriously.
The sweet spots:
Game: 8 Balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 151 Balls (67 hit, 62 thrown, 22 device)
Games: 30 Games (26 with BP/4 without)
Average: 5.03 Balls Per Game
Career: 317 Balls
It rained for most of the morning in Pittsburgh, in fact, it was still raining when I arrived at the ballpark at 11 AM. This could mean only one thing: no batting practice. I was faced with possibly being shut out for the first time since August 2008.
When the stadium opened the gates to the seating areas at 11:30, I went over to the left field foul line. The rain had subsided. Several bullpen pitchers from the Pirates were warming up. I placed myself behind John Grabow and Ross Ohlendorf and waited for an overthrow.
Directly to me. I didn’t even have to move.
Its not like he randomly tossed the ball up and I got into a scrum and stole the ball away from ticketed patrons. He usually picks out people. I caught the ball, waved thanks, turned and left the section. I could hear some snooty lady and her rotund husband getting on the usher. “He doesn’t have a ticket. He shouldn’t be allowed to do that. Don’t let him back in here. Check his ticket.” Blah blah blah.
I went over to left field for the fourth inning to try and get a warm up ball from Nyjer. I avoided the right field seats thanks to the afore mentioned rudest-usher-in-PNC-Park.
Left Field has a lot more sections and people, so I had very little chance. The ball went to a group of people near the foul pole.
Inning 5. I went back to center field. I stood at the far edge of Section 140, away from the snotty lady. I looked over and they were both staring directly at me. I stared right back at them. I should’ve walked over and offered their spoiled kid a ball. “Excuse me, would you like a ball? ….. Then bring a glove!” and walk away. That’s what I felt like doing, I was in such a bad mood.
I didn’t get the 5th inning ball because it was tossed to the second row. Predictably, the ball fell back onto the field. The same thing happened in the seventh inning. That’s why Nate prefers to throw the ball deep.
Anyway, the miserable family got on the usher again after the fifth inning because 3 of us ballhawks entered the section. The usher came over and told me that I wasn’t allowed to try for warm up balls anymore. He said come back and try tomorrow when there’s different people around. He told Nick and Bryan the same thing. If you’re wondering, here’s what those “folks” looked like:
(To be civil, I am editing this paragraph from what I originally wrote. I’ve taken out most of the colorful adjectives I originally had written.) Its the guy eating, his son, and the lady in the orange.
I could’ve tried in the seventh and ninth, but out of respect for the ushers, I went and sat behind the Reds dugout to see if I could get some foul balls. There are nice ushers at PNC Park, the ones in center field were just doing their job because the supervisor somehow got involved.
I didn’t get any foul balls, and I got shut out at the Reds dugout, so my day ended on a sour note.
To make it worse, the Pirates looked awful again, getting shut out. They haven’t hit a home run now in a week.
Adam LaRoche’s body language tells the whole story:
A few shots from the game:
Johnny Cueto deals to Nyjer Morgan:
Evan Meek (a big Dave Matthews Band fan):
Jesse Chavez (tossed me my first ball of the day:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 3 balls (3 thrown)
Season: 67 balls (26 hit, 34 thrown, 7 device)
Games: 14 games (11 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 4.79 balls per game
Career: 233 balls
When the gates opened, I ran into the bleachers and immediately found ball #1, laying in the front row of section 138. I walked around in each section before turning my attention to the action on the field, and found another Easter egg in Section 136 about 5 rows back, it was ball #2.
The Pirates were hitting for about 10 more minutes, and then the Reds were going to hit. Near the end of the Pirates portion of Batting Practice, Karstens threw a ball to a kid about 6 rows back. Either the throw was a little off, and the kid completely missed the ball. It ricocheted right to me, ball #3. I was then faced with the choice of keeping the ball, or giving it to the kid. I decided to be charitable and glove flipped the ball to the kid, who thanked me.
The Reds then came out to hit. At the end of the Pirates portion of batting practice, a Pirate had thrown a ball into the crowd that someone misplayed. The ball was laying on the edge of the warning track. I didn’t even think about doing the glove trick, because it was directly in the sight line of a security guard.
I changed into my Reds gear, and stood in the front row directly in front of the ball, and waited. Jerry Hairston came over to left center field.
He walked over, and without hesitation flipped me ball #4.
Game: 8 Balls (4 hit, 4 thrown)
Season: 58 Balls (23 hit, 29 thrown, 6 device)
Games: 12 Games (10 with BP, 2 without)
Average: 4.83 Balls per Game
Career: 224 Balls
Today was PNC Park’s Opening Day. I went today with my wife Holly. We got to the gates around 10:30 AM, and waited in line for a half hour. When the gates opened, I rushed in and was the 6th one into the left field bleachers.
Things were a little dry at first. Eventually, two balls were hit and Ian Snell came to the fence to get them. I asked him for a ball and he flipped one over his head without looking to me. It was ball #1 of the day. Luckily, for the first 30 minutes, only season ticket holders are permitted into batting practice, so I had plenty of room to roam.
Game: 5 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 13 balls (7 hit, 4 thrown, 2 device)
Games: 3 (3 with BP, 0 without)
Career: 179 balls
Hit List: 179 ties me with Willy Aybar for #3809 all time.
Unfortunately, batting practice was wiped out by thunderstorms that rolled through last night. When we arrived at the field just after 11AM, the tarp was still on. My only hope of getting a ball would be to have one thrown to me.
I was sort of miserable during this game due to some severe burning on my hands that I guess came from the sun. When we went in, 4/5’s of the Yankees starting rotation was warming up in right field: Andy Pettitte, Chien Ming Wang, CC Sabathia, and Joba Chamberlain. After warming up, they threw their balls to a few little kids in the Tampa Tribune Deck area. They went over to the bullpen and threw their side sessions.
Security was ridiculous for a spring training game. There is a circular walk way that is above the bullpen. There were three security guards walking back and forth and enforcing a rule that all fans had to stay at least 2 feet back from the railing. I mean, seriously? I didn’t attempt to get a ball from Sabathia or Chamberlain after their side sessions because there were so many fans. I had also noticed that the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch.
They soon started throwing along the left field line. I politely asked an usher if I could go down to the front behind where they were throwing. It was sprinkling, and there was maybe 10 fans in all of the sections along the 3rd base line. He told me I had to have a ticket, no exceptions. So, I stood above the Pirates bullpen, along a railing. Craig Hansen was throwing with some minor leaguer, Denny Bautista was tossing with #83, Chris Bootcheck was tossing with strenghth coach Frank Velazquez, and Sean Burnett was tossing with Jason Davis.
Hansen finished tossing first. My dad and I were the only ones along the railing by the Pirates bullpen. I called down to him, “Craig, could you toss that ball up!” He looked and me, and threw it with some nice authority. It was ball #1. Hansen then ran his sprints.
I asked Burnett, Velazquez, Bautista and #83 for their warm up balls, but was ignored.
We left and got something to eat and found our seats. Before game time, the Pirates came back out and started tossing, so I went back over to the railing. I noticed bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade had a few balls in his glove. He looked up at me and tossed one up. It was ball #2. There was many more fans along the railing now and some of them looked puzzled, “How’d you know that guys name?”
Zach Duke then started throwing his bullpen session before his start. I was waiting for him to get finished so I could ask for the ball. However, a security guard appeared and told everyone to go to their seats. The game wasn’t going to start for another 15 minutes. He didn’t care. Don’t the Yankees get that this is Spring Training? Is there really a need to be that strict?
Among signs I saw posted were No Standing (posted everywhere), No Loitering, No Diving from the Railing, No throwing objects from the pedestrian walkway, etc. If Spring Training was this military style in enforcing rules, I’d hate to see how strict they will be at the new Yankee Stadium during Batting Practice.
A side note: had there been batting practice, I was planning on going into the right field Tampa Tribune Deck to chase home runs. However, you can’t get in there without a ticket (of course).
On to the game:
The Yankees would go on to win the game 9-8. They played most of their regulars until the 7th inning. Zach Duke was shelled by the Yankees, giving up 8 runs in 3.1 innings. Duke had been looking much better this spring until this start. Eric Hinske, Ryan Doumit, and Robinson Cano hit home runs in the game.
Here are some action shots:
AJ Burnett vs Freddy Sanchez
Nate McLouth takes a look at a pitch:
Ryan Doumit hits a ball to the right side:
Tampa Tribune Deck (if going to BP, you’d better have a Deck ticket!) Cano’s home run hit off the blue restaurant roof.
Stands to my right:
“The Boss” George Steinbrenner
George was taking in the game with Mr. October, Reggie Jackson:
“The Sandman” Mariano Rivera
Brett Gardner Caught Stealing:
Ex-Pirate Xavier Nady (The X-man!)
Tomorrow I’m headed back to Bradenton.