May 2009

5-30-09 PNC Park

Today was the first of three Skyblast dates throughout the summer at PNC Park.  Basically its an hour long concert/fireworks show.  The bands are always “B” List bands, with past bands being Smash Mouth, Styx, Live, PovertyNeck Hill Billies, etc.  The band tonight was the Zac Brown Band.

The stadium was sold out, so there would be some more competition than usual during batting practice.  I attended this game with my wife.  We were the 4th and 5th people in line.  Unfortunately, by the time the gates opened, the 3 people ahead of us had swelled to 11 through the process of sparing/cutting.  There went any chance for Easter Eggs out the window.

After about 5 minutes of batting practice, I got ball #1 from Ian Snell.  
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Ian gets a lot of crap for his inconsistencies, but he’s one of my favorite Pirates.  He’s definitely not stingy when it comes to giving away baseballs, so you have to respect that. 

One of the groups that came up was mostly lefties, so I abandoned left field and went into foul ball territory. 
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STATISTICS:
Game:  5 Balls (3 hit, 2 thrown)
Season:  135 Balls  (60 hit, 58 thrown, 17 device)
Games:  27 Games (23 with BP, 4 without)
Average:  5.00 Balls Per Game
Career:  301 Balls
Attendance:   37,167 (sell-out)

5-29-09 PNC Park

photo(25).jpgI have been in a slump recently.  The last decent day I had was May 11th in Cleveland when I snagged 9 balls.  The past 2 weeks it has seemed like all I could manage was 2 balls.  I needed to get back on track.  I’d seen my average dip from 5.7 per game to 4.8 per game.  Not good.

I attended today’s game with my wife.  We were third in line, and I was the first one into the seats, but there were no Easter Egg balls to be found. 

I got 2 balls during the Pirates portion of batting practice, which isn’t bad, since they only hit for 10-15 minutes while the gates are open.
photo(21).jpgSTATISTICS:
Game:  8 Balls (5 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device)
Season:  130 Balls (57 hit, 56 thrown, 17 device)
Games:  26 Games (22 with BP, 4 without)
Average: 5.00 Balls per Game
Career:  296 Balls
Attendance:  18,236

5-25-09 Progressive Field

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After some deliberation, I decided to attend this game.  The game was to begin at 6:05, an hour earlier than normal.  Gates open on weekdays at 4:30 for 7:05 games, so I was expecting the gates to open at 3:30.

My wife and I got to Cleveland early, and picked up our tickets at the will call window around 3 and got in line at the gate.  A girl came out and set everything up (tables, ropes, garbage cans, signs).  She told some people that the gates were to open at 3:30.  Yes!

Imagine my displeasure when the girl left to find the workers at 3:30 and returned with, “Uh, the gates aren’t opening until 4:30.” 

I had to stand there, already in a bad mood, and listen to an autograph hound talk about his autograph exploits for an hour.  He was talking obnoxiously loud.  One of those people that wants everyone to hear his conversation.
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BJ Upton:

Evan Longoria takes a big rip:
100_1432.jpgCarlos Pena takes a lead:
100_1444.jpgToday’s baseball(s):  only one pictured because career ball #288 was given away.
100_1445.jpgNotice the nice scuffing from where it hit the concrete?

And the sweet spot:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  2 Balls (1 hit, 1 device)
Season:  122 Balls (52 hit, 55 throw, 15 device)
Games:  25 Games (21 with BP, 4 without)
Average:  4.88 Balls per Game
Career:  288 Balls
Attendance:  20,929

5-23-09 Consol Energy Field

With the Pirates on one of their longest road trips of the year, and the second closest MLB team, the Indians being out of town, I decided to head to Washington.

No, not Washington DC, Washington PA.  Its a small town about 40 minutes south of Pittsburgh.  I actually spent four years of my life in this town while I attended Washington and Jefferson College.  Its a great town and a really nice area.    The minor league team there is the Washington Wild Things.

I attended this game with my wife, and we arrived in the parking lot around 4:40ish, and batting practice was already under way.  The plan was to snag my first career minor league baseball.  I had attended only a couple minor league games in my life (once in New Britain CT, and twice in Altoona PA).

When we arrived, we were surprised to see one of PNC Park’s regulars sitting beyond the outfield wall.  His name is Dan, and he is also a season ticket holder for the Washington Wild Things.  He was able to give us some helpful pointers about the ballpark, food, etc.

Anyway, there wasn’t much competition, like at Major League games.  I stood beyond the outfield fence and just waited.  I could’ve even just sat down and waited.

The view to my left.
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The view straight ahead.
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Check out the amazing cross aisle that I had behind me.  (We asked for the best seats and were given handicapped seats). 
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A few pictures from the game:
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100_1422.jpg100_1421.jpgThe balls that I snagged: (do not count in my season totals.) 
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I marked them ML 1 and ML 2, for minor-league 1, 2.  I do something similar with my spring training balls, marking them ST 1, etc.  For real game balls, I just put the number. 

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Baseball Cards

I’m in the midst of a stretch where both the Pirates and Indians are away for awhile, so I won’t be attending any more games any time soon.  (Possibly one this weekend, but its a small chance).  Since there is this lull, I’ve decided to blog a bit about baseball cards.

My obsession with baseball cards began in the spring of 1989.  I had started to get into baseball in 1988, but baseball cards hadn’t taken ahold of me yet, until that fateful day at K-Mart.  I was with a childhood friend, Nick Yakabishin.  He was already a seasoned collector of cards.  I remember Nick and I both getting a jumbo pack of 1989 Topps Cards.

Nick said that the goal was to find Pittsburgh Pirates cards, but that if I got an Andy Van Slyke, he “would die.”  Andy Van Slyke was the most popular Pirate in the late 1980’s, and his cards were like gold to children.  I watched Nick tear into his pack.  He got a couple crappy Pirates like Dave LaPoint and Mike Dunne, but no Andy Van Slyke.

I then opened mine.  I remember sniffing the gum and then chewing on it while I shuffled through the deck.  Somewhere mid way through, there he was.  A fresh, crisp 1989 Topps Andy Van Slyke card. 
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I started going crazy.  My friend was happy for me, but jealous.  He was shocked that I had found a Van Slyke card.  I was hooked.

My obsession grew.  I was most active in collecting cards up until about 1995.  I continued to collect until college in 1999, when my interest waned. 

Any time my parents would take my brother and I anywhere, picking up a pack of cards was a necessity.  My brother was also obsessed with cards.  We used to look forward to our trips to see our grandma in Connecticut because of a card shop that we considered the Mecca of all sporting good stores, Rock’s Sports Cards.  I’m not sure if its still around anymore, but the place was great.  My dad used to get annoyed because my brother and I would spend upwards of an hour there browsing and looking through all of the bargain bins.

At Christmas time, half of our gifts involved baseball or baseball cards.  The first complete set I received was the 1989 Score set, during the Christmas of ’89.  I would go on to put my first set together from cards pulled from packs in 1993 (Topps).

In late 1992 or thereabouts, the unthinkable happened.  A man by the name of Dick Brown had purchased an old candy store and turned it into a Sports Cards store.  He named it Discount Sports Cards.  It became a daily destination for my brother, Joe, and I.  We were his best customers and fondly called the store “Discount” amongst ourselves.    The shop was located roughly about a mile away, and we would ride there on our bikes, buy grab bags (which he would put a few good singles and the rest filler cards), and look through the latest singles.

We would hold “card shows” in the back yard or in the living room, where we would all set up our cards to display for everyone to see.  Usually, we ended up just buying each other cards, so it was basically trading.

I used to spend almost all of my disposable money on baseball cards.  As a child, I never had much money, but when I could scrape together a buck or two, I was buying cards.  How many cards do I have?  I would estimate about 80,000.  There’s boxes everywhere.

The entire area under our bed is baseball cards.
photo(6).jpgI believe there are still more at my parents house.

My most valuable card?  I don’t have any super valuable ones.  Possibly a 1962 Topps Stan Musial.  It might be worth $100, maybe.  I have a 1972 Hank Aaron.  A 1992 Mariano Rivera Bowman Rookie Card.  I don’t think any of them could sell much these days.  The value of baseball cards plummeted. 

My entire collection?  Its probably not even worth that much.  My cards mostly range from 1987-1995. 

I remember being a Beckett Baseball Monthly subscriber and looking up my top cards each month to see if they’d “gone up” or “gone down.”  The magazines are probably worth more than most of the cards now.

I remember my dad bought a 1990 Donruss set in 1990.  Its still sealed and in the cellophane.  “One day, this will be worth a lot of money,” he told us and my brother.  Unfortunately, the baseball card bubble burst, and its worth less now than what he paid.

I remember my mom telling me about how she used to buy packs of cards in the late 50’s, early 60’s, just for the gum.  I recall listening in horror as she described how one day my grandma threw all of her cards in the trash.

Baseball cards dominated my life in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s, as did my interest in baseball.    I’m still interested in baseball, but no longer cards.  Most companies have folded, like Fleer, Donruss, and Score.  I believe only Topps and Upper Deck are still around.

My wife thinks I’m a weirdo because every time we go to Wal Mart, I have to walk past the Baseball card aisle to stop and stare.  Some habits never die.

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Did you collect cards?  How many did you have?  What got you hooked?  What’s your best card?

5-17-09 PNC Park

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Since there was a lengthy delay last night, the game ended late.  I knew there was a good chance that there would be no batting practice.

I was right.

My mission was to avoid getting shut out for the first time since August 2008.  I began the day in the bullpen area waiting for two Rockies pitchers to finish their side sessions.  When the pitchers were done throwing, they handed them to the bullpen coach, who then tossed them into the bag.  I put in a request, but it was ignored.

I then went to the right field line as Rockies pitchers began to throw.  Many pitchers threw in doors today, but some came outside to catch.  I first lined up behind Jason Hammel and Taylor Buchholz (? i think). 
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STATISTICS:
Game:  1 Ball
Season:  120 Balls
Games;  24 Games (20 with BP, 4 without)
Average:  5.00 Balls per Game
Career:  286 Balls
Attendance:  14,545

5-16-09 PNC Park

There isn’t much to write about. 

Today was a Saturday and was Nate McLouth All Star bobblehead.  The biggest crowd since opening day was expected.  Here’s the view from General Robinson and Federal Street.
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The Pirates made an alteration to their batting practice gate opening starting today.  The gates still opened at 4:30 on Saturday, but center field and right field didn’t open until 5:30 PM, meaning all fans wanting to see batting practice would have to cram into 6 rows across 7 bleacher section in left field.  Not good.

I got ball #1 from Matt Capps during the season ticket holder only portion of batting practice.  That was it for the day.  I got robbed twice by fans who were standing a row ahead of me.  Had they not been there, I would’ve made the catches easily. 

I made my first glaring error of the season.  I had to jump for a home run ball, but I barely got off the ground.  It hit my glove and some other fan got it.  Rule of ballhawking, if a ball hits your glove, you should come away with the ball. 

Left field was getting way to crowded, so I headed over to center field when it opened up.  I still got shut out.  None of the Rockies pitchers were showing me any love.  Not surprising, since I got blacklisted yesterday by a jealous ballhawk snitch who told the Rockies I change my clothes to get more balls.

I tried for a ball at the bullpen and in the first inning from Nate McLouth.  No luck.

Then, the rains came.  The game was delayed for an hour and 37 minutes. 
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STATISTICS:
Game:  1 Ball (1 thrown)
Season:  119 Balls (51 hit, 54 thrown, 14 device)
Games:  23 games (20 with BP, 3 without)
Average:  5.17 Balls per Game
Career:  285 Balls
Attendance:  24,496

5-15-09 PNC Park

I attended today’s game with my wife.  She was looking forward to getting some reusable grocery bags.  I was looking forward to snagging some baseballs.

I was about the 6th one into batting practice.

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Soon,Craig Monroe fired a perfect strike at me for ball #1.

That was it for the Pirates section of batting practice.  I changed into my Rockies gear and talked to a few other ballhawks.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  5 balls (1 hit, 3 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 118 balls (51 hit, 53 thrown, 14 device)
Games: 22 games (19 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.36 balls per game
Career:  284 balls
Attendance: 17,179

5-14-09 PNC Park

Today wasn’t a good day.  I was first in line at the stadium.
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But there were no Easter Eggs.

Luckily, as soon as I walked in, Ian Snell was picking up a ball and tossed me ball #1.

Then, the cold spell began.  I didn’t get any more balls during the Pirates portion of batting practice.  The Cardinals came out.  Still nothing.  It was  5:50 and I headed to center field for the last part of batting practice.  Chris Duncan is the Cardinals best home run hitter in batting practice, so I was there waiting.

He hit a few home runs that came close to me.  One landed in an empty chair.  I was the only one running for it.  Some random guy sitting 2 rows behind the ball saw me running, and lazily got up and picked up the ball.

It was 6:00 PM, and I had only one ball.  I was thinking to myself, “You really suck.  You’re the worst ballhawk in the entire stadium.”  Moments later, Duncan hit a ball into the 5th row of section 139.  I was in Section 141 and took off running.  Myself and a legendary ballhawk named Jim were both after the ball.  We both arrived at the same time, however I entered the row that the ball was in, and he was one row up.  I was able to snag the ball just in time to get ball #2.  A few seconds later, Duncan hit a ball to the same spot, except another row up.  Jim and I were off to the races again.  Again, I got to the ball a split second faster and got ball #3.  Walking back to my seat, I found an easter egg ball wedged between the cement and a seat back.  There was a lady sitting close by, so I casually walked over and picked up ball #4.  As soon as I picked the ball up, the Cardinals ran off the field, ending their batting practice.  Not a bad finish after being stuck on 1 ball for almost an hour.

I tried to get a ball from Karstens,
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STATISTICS:
Game:  5 Balls (3 hit, 2 thrown)
Season: 113 Balls (50 hit, 50 thrown, 13 device)
Games:  21 games (18 with BP, 3 without)
Average:  5.38 balls per game
Career: 279 balls
Attendance: 12,347

5-13-09 PNC Park

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I knew today would be a tough day snagging wise from the start.  If you recall reading my entry from the Pirates Caravan, I won an opportunity to change 3rd base during the game and be recognized as the fan of the game. 

When I received my letter from the Pirates with information, it stated that I needed to be in the security office by 5:30PM to check in, or I would jeopardize the opportunity to change 3rd base.  This means that I would have less than a half hour to snag.

My wife and I arrived at the stadium and were near the end of the line to get in.  When we did get into the stadium, the minutes ticked away without me snagging anything.

I got nothing from the Pirates.

It was about 5:20 and I still had no balls.  Was I going to get shut out for the first time since August of 2008?   

Luckily, no.  All of the Cardinals pitchers were still warming up in right field when the Cardinals began hitting. 
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Do you recognize him?  I didn’t.  My wife didn’t.

We then had to LEAVE the stadium, and re-enter through the gates to go to our seats.  Why they wouldn’t let us take the elevator up to the main concourse, I don’t know.  So, I used 4 tickets for the 2 of us (I used 2 of my season tickets for the first 30 minutes so I could snag a ball).

We reported to guest services in the 6th inning and were taken back down into the tunnel, where I joined the grounds crew.  No one really said much to me.  One guy said, “Here’s the base.”  No instructions.

A few pictures:
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100_1343.jpgI got to watch an inning from the top step:
100_1349.jpgThe third out came, and all of the ground crew and myself rushed onto the field.

I went to third base, as Freddy Sanchez walked right past me and changed the base.  It came right out, and was changed in a matter of seconds.
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After changing the base, I was going to do a Rickey Henderson pose,
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But decided I’d better just do a generic pose.
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And that was it.  We went back to our seats and watched the rest of the game.  The Pirates won the game, and I was shut out at the dugout by the umpire.

Here’s the one ball I got:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  1 Ball (1 device) (worst snagging day of the season for me)
Season: 108 balls (47 hit, 48 thrown, 13 device)
Games: 20 Games (17 with BP, 3 without)
Average:  5.4 balls per game
Career: 274 balls
Attendance:10,494

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