April 2009

4-25-09 Oriole Park at Camden Yards

100_1023.jpgI was looking forward to my first ever trip to Camden Yards.  I should’ve known that something was up though because before leaving, I filled up my half empty gas tank with 6.66 gallons of gas.  Not good.

I drove to Baltimore and checked into the Ramada Lord Baltimore (Radisson) hotel. 
100_0989.jpgAnd right before 5PM, there were hundreds of people that snaked off into the distance and behind the Sports Museum.

This was not a good sign for batting practice.

The gates opened and I ran into right field first.   It would be the last time I would run for somewhile.  There was me and some other guy in the section.  I long home run was hit within the first minute.  It landed about 10 rows behind me, closer to the other guy.  He ran to get the ball.  I also ran to get the ball.  We both ran to where the ball had landed but couldn’t find it.  I then noticed some movement under the seats.  It was rolling down the stairs under the seats.  It was two rows ahead of me.  I attempted to stradle a row of chairs to get to it quickly.  The drop must’ve been more than I expected because my foot landed awkwardly and immediately rolled over.  I went down like a pile of bricks.  The other guy saw what happened and ran over and snatched the ball.  I was in a lot of pain.  I had to sit down for a couple minutes.  I tried to stand up but couldn’t walk.  My ankle was in bad shape.  Should I go home or continue on? 

I toughed it out and limped over to left field.  Since I had season tickets for this game, I had an extra 30 minutes with only season ticket holders.  There were a few balls hit out, but I had absolutely no range.  Usually I can cover at least one full section to my left or right to chase a home run.   Now?  Maybe 2-3 seats either way.  A home run landed near me, but I wasn’t able to get to it in time.  Some teenager ran over and grabbed it and screamed “It’s mine!!!”  and started celebrating like he had caught Joe Carter’s 1993 Game 7 World Series walk off home run.  I really wasn’t in the mood. 

Several minutes later another home run hit and bounced diagonally directly to me.  I bent over gingerly and picked up ball #1

Right before the stadium opened to the general public, another home run was hit.  It was directly at me.  I barely had to move.  I caught the home run on the fly.&
nbsp; It was ball #2.

The stadium really filled up with people.  Being from Pittsburgh, it was by far the most crowded batting practice I had ever seen. 
100_1007.jpgI was extremely irritated. 

The Rangers must have been having their own Home Run Derby competition, because it was insane the amount of home runs they were hitting, and how far they were hitting them.  Josh Hamilton hit one over the batter’s eye, and peppered a few more off of it.  He was also hitting opposite field shots into the left field seats.  Balls were landed a good 25 rows back.

I wasn’t able to get anything though.

I went over to center field to check out the bullpens.  There was 10 balls sitting in the grassy area to the right of the bullpens beneath the batters eye.  I met and chatted with another ballhawk who said that the pitching coach usually comes out and tosses the balls up.  There was one ball at the very back that was about 10 feet out.  However, it was a big drop between the seats and the grassy area against the batters eye.  I would’ve used the glove trick, but I figured I’d save myself the aggravation and just wait for the pitching coach.   

An Orioles bullpen catcher came out and started getting the balls.  Myself and the other ballhawk asked politely for the balls.  He totally ignored us.  He gathered all of the balls, most if not all were hit by Texas Rangers, and put them in the ball bag.  I’m real sure that pitchers want to warm up with balls that were crushed 420+ feet.    No wonder the Orioles lost today.

I took my seat in the 6th row, almost directly behind home plate.
100_1024.jpgIt was pretty good foul ball territory, since I was right on the aisle.

I took a few shots of the game.
100_1025.jpgJosh Hamilton:
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100_1017.jpgNick Markakis got the biggest ovation of the night from Orioles fans.

I ended up leaving the game in the 4th inning as I noticed a huge bulge in my sock.  My ankle was swollen really bad.  After sitting down for a few innings, I could barely even walk.  I made it to the outside of the stadium and flagged down a taxi to take me back to my hotel room.
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I snapped this picture in the mirror of the balls I caught today.  I wasn’t happy.
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I had tickets for Sunday’s game, but found a buyer for them.  They came and picked up the tickets on Sunday morning at my hotel.  There was just no way I could go to the game.  I’m at home now, and can’t put any substantial weight on my ankle without pain.

Hopefully my ankle can heal enough so I can get to some games this week.

STATISTICS:
Game:  2 Balls (2 hit)
Season:  50 Balls  (19 hit, 25 thrown, 6 device)
Games:  11 Games (9 with BP, 2 without)
Average:   4.55 Balls per Game
Career:  216 Balls
Attendance:  41,160

4-25-09 DISABLED LIST!

I drove out of state to attend a game and snag some balls today.  Within the first MINUTE, I suffered a gruesome injury which ruined batting practice and the day.
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No, that’s not a baseball under my skin…

More later… I have to update yesterday’s 4-24 entry.

4-24-09 Progressive Field

I kicked off this weekend with the last of my April games.  I had wanted to snag 60 balls this month, but in retrospect, that’s probably unreachable.

I went to Cleveland with one goal:  snag a Minnesota Twins’ HHH Metrodome final season ball.  It was the first time I’d been back to Cleveland since August 2008.

I got the stadium, almost an hour early, so I took some pictures.
100_0934.jpgA closer look at one of the commemoratives:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  6 Balls (2 hit, 4 thrown)
Season:  48 Balls (17 hit, 25 thrown, 6 device)
Games:  10 Games (8 with BP, 2 without)
Average:  4.80 Balls per Game
Career:  214 Balls
Attendance: 20,215

4-21-09 PNC Park

I had several things working in my favor today. 

1)  The Penguins had a playoff game at the same time the Pirates had their game today.  This would lead to drastically reduced attendance figures.
2)  The weather forecast was menacing.  With dark clouds and some rain showers moving through around 4 PM.  Rain tends to keep folks at home also.
3)  It was a weekday game.  The Pirates do not draw on well on weekday night games.
4)  There was only one other decent ballhawk in attendance.
5)  I had plenty of space in my backpack.

I got to the stadium around 4:15PM and was second in line.  When the gates opened, I was the second into the bleachers.  I went over to my spot in left center field and hoped for a home run to come.  A Pirates batter drove a ball to left center field.  There were maybe four people there for the first ten minutes, so I ranged far to my left towards the bullpen.  The ball skipped off the bullpen wall.  Oh well.  I walked back and looked down.  I saw a speck of white under a bleacher.  A ball was lying tucked up against the concrete step and a bleacher support.  It was well hidden, but not anymore.  I reached down and picked up ball #1.

Craig Monroe was the next batter.  He hit a drive to deep left center.  The ball hit off a bleacher and bounced back onto the field.  Matt Capps walked over and picked it up.  I called out for the ball and Capps flipped it to me.  I had ball #2, and #199 of my career.

The Pirates ended their BP at 5:10.  I had two balls after 10 minutes.  Not bad.  The Marlins came out to take Batting Practice.  I changed into the Marlins gear that I wore yesterday.    Coach Bo Porter came out with a bat and started hitting line drives off the wall so Brett Carroll could get a read on how to play the richochets.    Bo’s second hit was a hard line drive that cleared the wall.  It literally almost took out two ushers who were standing in the aisle cleaning the water off the seats.  I didn’t get that ball, but moved over to the spot that Bo was hitting the ball so I could snag one if he hit it over the wall again.  Porter started hitting hard grounders at the wall, wary of what he had just done minutes early.  After Porter and Carroll were done playing balls off the wall, I asked Brett Carroll for the ball.  He briefly glanced at me and saw my Marlins gear and tossed me ball #3, and #200 of my ballhawking career.

The first group of Marlins weren’t hitting many home runs, so I tried to get some more baseballs from the pitchers.  I received ball #4 from an unidentified Marlin.
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Can anyone help me out?  I got his attention and asked for the ball.  He looked at me and waved.  I asked him one more time for the ball in case he didn’t hear the first time.  He then flipped the ball up to me.

Another ball rolled to the wall and Renyel Pinto walked over to pick it up.
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I made my way over to the bullpen area.  There was a ball laying in the Pirates bullpen.  It was directly below me, about 5 feet out from the wall.  The ball was laying in a groove of dirt between the grass and a green carpet walkway.  It was in an indention of about maybe an inch or less.  I wanted to try the glove trick but I didn’t want to struggle with it.  It would’ve been hard to bat the ball closer to the wall with the glov
e to begin with because of the groove it was in.  Also, the main security office is directly behind the bullpen with large windows.  I felt I was being watched.  I didn’t want to risk it so I waited for someone to come out to the bullpen.  I waited for about 20 minutes until finally Jason Jaramillo and Joe Kerrigan came out to remove the bullpen tarp and get ready for Jeff Karsten’s warm up.  I asked Jaramillo first for the ball, but was ignored.  I then asked Joe Kerrigan and he picked the ball up, looked up to see who asked, and flipped me the ball.  It was ball #8 on the day, and a new personal one day record for me.

I decided to try for double digits, and stadium domination.  I asked John Baker for his warm up ball in center field before the game, but I don’t think he heard me.

The game then began.  I stood in center field for most of the game.  My plan was to try and get the outfielders’ warm up balls.

This was my view.  (picture was taken in about the 4th inning – notice the empty seats!)
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Before the first inning began, I found a fairly empty section in center field and stood with my glove ready, awaiting Nate McLouth’s warm up ball.
100_0916.jpgWhen he was done tossing with Brandon Moss, Nate turned and threw me his warm up ball.  It was ball #9.

I continued to roam the outfield in hopes of catching a home run ball or another warm up ball.  I snapped a few more pictures of random things, like Pittsburgh at night.
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In the 4th inning, I decided to try for a Marlins warm up ball.

I walked over to this unknown pitcher
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and asked for a warm up ball when he was done throwing.  He looked at me, saw my Marlins T-shirt and threw me ball #10.  Reynel Pinto whistled at me and called me over to the bullpen. I thought he was going to scold me because I heard him telling someone earlier in batting practice, “You already got one!”  I walked over and talked to him through the chain link fence.

“Aren’t you cold man?”  He said.  I told him I was, but I’d be alright.  I wanted to show my Marlins shirt off.  “You’re crazy man, this weather is terrible.”  I thought about asking him for a Marlins bullpen jacket, but that would’ve been a ridiculous request.

I was now 1 ball away from the PNC Park record for most balls in one game (as known to me).  A ballhawk with initials MG got 11 balls on 9/20/08 last year, the last batting practice of the regular season.  I would’ve liked to tie or beat him, as I was getting dissed earlier in the day by the same ballhawk.

I went over to the right field wall in the 6th inning.
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It was Brandon Moss’ turn to throw.  He threw the ball to the cluster of fans seated to the left of the foul pole, near the top of the section.  None of them had a glove.  I was standing half way up in the second section to the left of the foul ball.  The ball hit off someone’s hands, and bounced two rows down and rolled right to my feet.  I picked it up for ball #11.

I didn’t get any more warm up balls, so come the 9th inning, I was forced to decide to go to the Marlins dugout, or the Pirates dugout.  I decided to try my luck at the Marlins dugout, since I had been shutout every single game this homestand at the Pirates’ one.  No luck.  The Marlins weren’t in the mood to toss anything up after losing their second consecutive game to the Pirates.

No matter.  I had set a new personal record for balls in one day, and bounced back from my 2 ball performance yesterday in a big way.

Some pictures of the balls:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  11 balls  (2 hit, 9 thrown)
Season:  42 balls (15 hit, 21 thrown, 6 device)
Games:   9 games (7 with BP, 2 without)
Average:    4.67 balls per game
Career:  208 balls
Attendance:  9,917

4-20-09 PNC Park

Today wasn’t looking good.  It had rained continuously throughout the day.  When my wife and I left for the ballpark at 4:25 PM, it was still pouring.  We went anyway.

For the first half hour, nothing was going on in the stadium.  The tarp was on the field, and there were no players to be seen.  There was a random ball sitting in the middle of center field, but it would’ve been impossible to reach with the glove trick.

At 5:30, the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch and toss.  The rain had relented a bit.  I went down and lined up behind Jeff Karstens, hoping for an overthrown.  It didn’t happen.  I did manage to get Craig Hansen’s warm up ball.  It was ball #1.

The Pirates left the field, and once again, nothing was happening.  We went over to right field to await the Marlins to come out and catch.
100_0875.jpgThe weather still wasn’t looking good.  Water was starting to pond on the warning track.
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Not too bad, I guess.

STATISTICS:
Game:  2 balls  (2 thrown)
Season :  31 balls (13 hit, 12 thrown, 6 device)
Games:  8 games (6 with BP, 2 without)
Average:  3.88 balls per game
Career:  197 balls
Attendance:  8,790

4-19-09 PNC Park

I dragged myself out of bed after about five hours of sleep and went to today’s game.  I was hoping there would be batting practice today.  Even though it was Sunday, I thought maybe since yesterday was an afternoon game, that there would be BP.  I was right.

I decided to first ask Nyjer Morgan for a ball. 
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He was being asked by another fan to my right who had a Boston Red Sox hat on.  Nyjer came over and said, “Turn your hat around.”  The kid wouldn’t.  Morgan said, “Can’t do it, dawg.”  He proceeded to throw the ball to another fan wearing Pirate gear.  Soon after though, I got ball #1 from Nyjer Morgan.  I called his name and he tossed it up to me.

That was it for the Pirates portion of BP.  The Braves then came out and hit.  A ball rolled to the wall in left field, right at the 325 ft. marker.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  29 balls (13 hit, 10 thrown, 6 device)
Games:  7 (6 with BP, 1 without)
Average:  4.14 balls per game
Career:  195 balls
Attendance:   14,776

4-18-09 PNC Park

I could only attend batting practice at today’s game because I had Dave Matthews Band tickets for later tonight.

Since today’s game was to begin at 12:35, I feared that there would be no batting practice.  Usually on day games after night games, there is no batting practice.  However, when I was walking to the Center field gate, I could see this. 
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I got to the gates at 9:45 AM, 15 minutes early, and was third in line.  There were two non-ballhawks in front of me, so I felt pretty confident about being the first person into batting practice and claiming any Easter eggs.

I was the first one to the early entrance point, but the season ticket scanner wasn’t there.  A few other security guards came and said we had to wait until the scanner showed up.  I showed them I had season tickets and I even flashed my season ticket card.  They said no one could enter until the scanner showed up.  In the mean time, there were three fans with visitor passes in the bleachers. 

Ryan Doumit crushed a homerun that landed in the bleachers.  All I could do is stand helplessly and watch one of the visitor fans walk over and pick it up.  One missed opportunity.  Doumit hit another ball that hit near the bullpen.  It bounced off a bleacher and rolled down to the front row.  Luckily, the visitors didn’t see this one.  When the employee who scans the early entrance finally showed up 6 minutes late, I ran in and claimed the Doumit HR ball.  It was ball #1.

I asked Nyjer Morgan for a baseball, but he ignored me. 
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STATISTICS:
Game:  6 Balls  (3 hit, 3 device)
Season:  26 Balls  (12 hit, 9 thrown, 5 device)
Games:  6 Games (5 with BP/ 1 without)
Average:  4.33 Balls per Game
Career:  192 Balls
Attendance:  20,755

4-17-09 PNC Park

I was hoping to have a huge day today since the Penguins had a playoff game.  Sure enough, batting practice was pretty empty, but I didn’t have a stand out day.

My wife and I arrive at the park at 4:05 PM and were second in line.  I went into batting practice and looked for Easter Eggs, but there were none.  There were a couple ushers standing around and they must’ve picked up anything that came out.  I settled into my spot in left field and waited. 

An unidentified Pirate hit a deep fly ball.  He hit it right into the sun, but I was able to catch it on the fly… barely.  It almost went over my head.  Nonetheless, I had ball #1 of the day. 

Nyjer Morgan was shagging balls in the outfield and I called his name, he looked at me and tossed a ball, but it was headed for some random guy with a Pantera hat on.  The guy was holding a calendar and didn’t have a glove and looked out of place at batting practice.  He reached for the ball and missed it.  I picked the ball up on the deflection.  It was ball #2.  He kind of gave me a look like he expected me to give it to him, but I didn’t.  Since I called for Nyjer to throw the ball, I felt like I earned it, plus he didn’t have a glove and wasn’t prepared.

The Pirates portion of batting practice ended and the Braves came out to hit.  They weren’t hitting anything deep.  To make matters worse, batting practice looked like this:
100_0766.jpgI had so much room to roam and chase down home runs, but none were coming.  One finally did come out, but I misjudged the ball and it was over my head.  If I had been one row deeper I would have caught the ball.  I slammed my glove in disgust and muttered to myself.

I tried to chase down some other fly balls, but everything ended up falling short of the fence.  It was one of those days.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 Balls
Season:  20 Balls
Games:  5 Games (4 with batting practice, 1 without)
Average:  4.00 Balls per game
Career:  186 Balls
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4-15-09 PNC Park

I was faced with the decision today of attending the Pirate game or skipping it.  This is the weather forecast as of 1PM. 

weather.jpgBatting practice would surely be canceled.  I may get shut out for the first time since Sunday August 31st, 2008.  I decided that since I am now in a competitive ballhawk league, that I had to go and at least try.  I knew that my average balls per game would probably take a hit.

I went with my wife Holly and we arrived at the gates around 4:40 PM.  The gates open during the week at 5 PM.  Walking past the Stargell statue, I peered into the park and saw that sure enough, the tarp was covering the field.  There was no batting practice today.

I entered the bleacher section at 5 PM and looked around for some Easter Eggs.  There was nothing to be found, since it had been raining and drizzling all day long.  Around 5:20, the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch.  I followed a group of 6 other ballhawks up the escalator to go into the seating bowl to possibly catch an overthrow.  Usually there are security guards that don’t permit entrance until 5:30, but there were none around.  When we got to the front row right behind Matt Capps, Tyler Yates and company, a field security guard walked over and told us to go back to left field.  Even though it was 5:24, he wouldn’t let us stay.

Meanwhile, the Astros pitchers came out to stretch.  I decided that I might have a better chance getting a ball from them since there was a couple little kids and four high school kids watching the Pirates pitchers.

I decided to take the chance.  I took off my Pirates sweatshirt exposing my black Astros shirt and donned my Houston hat and headed over to right field.

I lined myself up behind Russ Ortiz and Geoff Geary.  I was the only one in the stands behind the Astros pitchers.  I had 20 feet to my left and right without a soul in sight.    There were 4 balls in play, as 8 pitchers were throwing.   Jeff Fulchino finished his tosses and had a ball.  I asked him for the ball and he made eye contact with me.  He didn’t say anything, but went and talked to a fellow pitcher.   A couple minutes later, Fulchino tossed me ball #1

There were still 3 balls in play.  Wesley Wright finished his tosses and gave his ball to a fan a little further down the line.  It was a 10 year old kid wearing Pirate gear.  Tim Byrdak was joking around and told the kid that he wasn’t done with the ball yet and to toss it back.  The kid just stared at Byrdak confused and horrified.  Byrdak urged him to toss the ball back.  The kid then turned and ran away.  It was rather amusing.

Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins finished their tossing next.  I asked for the ball.  Again, I was the only fan with Astros gear on, so Valverde looked at me and tossed me ball #2.  There was one ball left and it was being used by Geoff Geary and Russ Ortiz.  I snapped a picture on my cell phone.
0415091753.jpgThe Pirates got some good relief work from their bullpen and ended up losing the game 4-1.  Adam LaRoche accounted for the Pirates only run with a Home Run in the 9th inning.  It was too little too late. 

I tried to get a ball at the dugout after the game from an umpire and the Pirates pitchers, but failed to do so. 

As I was ready to leave, I decided to walk around for a minute and collect a ticket stub or two.  I notice in Section 124, about four rows back, a circular white object laying on the ground.  Seriously?  Could this be a ball?  Since I waited for the bullpen coach to come in, it took some time and the stadium was basically vacant.  I looked closer and sure enough, it was a major league baseball.  How did this get here?  Was it some little kid who didn’t really even care about it?  Did someone catch it and it trickled out of their glove during the game?  It was weird.  I looked around and didn’t see anyone looking for a ball.  There were only a half dozen fans left, waiting down at the dugout.  So, I picked the ball up, making it ball #4 of the day.    Usually, Easter Eggs that are found count as hit balls, but since there was no batting practice on this day, and it didn’t look like a game ball, I decided it was probably someone’s warm up ball.  I’ll chalk it up under the thrown category.

I’m glad I went to the game despite the rain. 

Here’s a look at today’s results: ( the media guide was free for being a season ticket holder.  The bobblehead was won at a spin-a-wheel g
ame where they are giving away all of the left over promotions from 2008)
100_0757.jpgAnd a closer look at those Astros balls.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  4 Balls (4 thrown)
Season: 17 Balls (7 hit, 8 thrown, 2 device)
Games:  4 Games (3 with BP, 1 without)
Average:  4.25 Balls per Game
Career:  183 Balls
Hit List:  183 ties me with former Pirate Chris Duffy for #3769  on the all time hit list.
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4-13-09 PNC Park : Home Opener

100_0696.jpgToday 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.
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STATISTICS:
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)
Average:   4.33
Career:  179 balls
Hit List:  179 ties me with Willy Aybar for #3809 all time.
Attendance: 38,411.
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