8-30-08 PNC Park, Brewers @ Pirates

I decided to try a new tactic today and stand in foul territory for the entire Pirates’ batting practice.  As soon as the gates opened at 4:30, I hurried over to the corner seat right along the left field foul line.  My reasoning was that the Pirates’ left handed hitters would be slashing the ball down the line, working on their opposite field stroke.  Wouldn’t you know, that I didn’t get a single ball from a Pirates left handed hitter come remotely close to me.

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I received ball #1 courtesy of Ian Snell.  Snell is having a rough season, but he is an all around good guy when it comes to tossing balls into the stands.  I called out his name and he fired a ball at me.  It was probably about 65 mph, and it was a few feet over my head, so I had to leap for it to make the grab.  In the picture to the left, Ian Snell is talking with Denny Bautista in
front of the Verizon Wireless sign. 

Ian used to hang out in center
field all the time until we traded or demoted all of Bautista’s shagging buddies (Damaso Marte, Romulo Sanchez, Franquelis Osoria, Yoslan Herrera, Marino Salas, etc).

jack.jpgBall #2 came soon after, courtesy of Jack Wilson.  Jack pulled a line drive down the line foul directly at me.  It bounced one time and landed right in my glove.  Wilson tends to pull balls down the line into foul territory an awful lot – I’ve only recently noticed it.  The Pirates batting practice ended uneventfully at 5:15 and the Brewers came out to bat.  I immediately made my way over to the left field bleachers.

I set up shop in my usual spot – on the aisle between Sections 135 and 135.  I was anticipating a barrage of home runs from the Brew Crew.  The first group yielded no positive results, as I didn’t even get near any of the home runs.  Many were going to right field and center field, as Prince Fielder was in the group.  Fielder hit a couple out of the stadium over the right field wall, presumably sending them into the Allegheny.  He also tattooed the batter’s eye in Center Field, which is 450 feet from home plate.
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The second group included the likes of Ryan Braun, Gabe Kapler, Corey Hart and
Rickie
Weeks, so I liked my chances of getting some action.  Braun didn’t dissapoint, probably hitting the most home runs of any Brewer.  I got ball #3 from Braun, a ground rule double that bounced on the warning track, and took a nice clean perfect hop directly to me, five rows back into the crowd.   I got a nice little applause from several people close by.

hart.jpgA few short moments later, Corey Hart launched a line drive home run ball to the section I was standing in.  The ball’s path was directly in the sun for most of its flight.  For those of you who attend batting practice on a regular basis at PNC Park, you know that the sun is absolutely brutal in left field.  I was able to position myself in the path of the ball, but had to stare into the sun for what seemed like an eternity.  I waited until the ball came out of the sun, and was able to catch it (ball #4) without even moving.  I once again received a polite applause, while several people came over and asked me, “Did you see that?  How were you able to keep you eye on that?  I lost that one in the sun!”  Never attend batting practice without sunglasses

Ball #5 was a home run by Gabe Kapler (I think) that landed on the 134 side of section 135.  It landed in a group of soccer moms and little kids who ducked for cover.  The ball landed and trickled down three rows.  I had jogged over to take a look, as I usually do, in case of a funny ricochet, and was able to toss my glove over the ball as it was rolling towards me.  I had ball #5 in my possession.  Almost immediately, one of these mom’s starting patting me on the arm with purpose, saying “Come on, I need that ball for my son, you already caught three!”  I totally ignored her and walked away with the ball.  She called me a hog.   I didn’t care.  If I was going to give the ball away it certainly wasn’t going to be to her.  I don’t think I would ever give a ball to someone who asked or demanded it.

At this point, a man in a yellow shirt came up to me and offered me $20 or $30 for one of my balls.  He explained to me that he was from Maryland and had made a four hour drive and wanted a ball for his son.  I told him that I don’t sell balls, and that he could try asking one of the players for a ball.  The guy ended up paying another ballhawk $20 for a warm up ball. 

 I had already had five balls on the day, and batting practice was going to be ending in several minutes.  I had noticed a ball laying on the warning track, unnoticed by the players.  I decided to get the ball to add one more to my total.  I walked over, politely asked a group of youngsters if I could get the ball.  They looked at me in amazement as I took out my glove with a string tied to it.  I dropped the glove directly on the ball and pulled it up in a matter of several seconds.  It was ball #6.   I handed the ball to a 9 year old kid on my right.  What made things better, was the man who purchased a ball for $20 was standing right right, three people away, there watching everything unfold. I was hoping he was kicking himself for paying $20 for a used BP ball.  He could’ve gone into the Pirates clubhouse store and bought a brand new official MLB ball with a cube-case for $22.

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After pulling off the glove trick, one of the kids asked, “Can I have that!”  I told him he’d have to make his own.

Batting practice ended, and although I tried to get some extra balls throughout the night, I was destined to leave with the five that I kept.  The umpires and bullpen pitchers ignored me as I stood above the tunnel in Sec 24 after the game and asked for a ball.

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Statistics:
Game:  6 Balls (1 given away)
Season: 110 Balls
Career: 148 Balls
Streak: 7 games with at least 1 ball

Attendance: 21,931 (57.2% full)
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