We were third in line at the gate, but the two people in front of me sort of got out of line by standing in front of another gate. So, I was first into the stadium. Upon entering, I found ball #1 in the right field seats. I watched helplessly as an usher picked up another ball I had spotted.
Travis Hafner batted at the beginning of batting practice and peppered the right field seats with home runs. I was able to grab ball #2 and ball #3 off of his bat within about the span of a minute.
It helped that the crowd looked like this for the first 30 minutes or so:
Game: 9 Balls (8 hit, 1 device)
Season: 98 Balls (43 hit, 44 thrown, 11 device)
Games: 18 Games (15 with BP/ 3 without)
Average: 5.44 balls per game
Career: 264 Balls
With the Pirates on the road for a full week, I decided to add two games at Progressive Field. I checked the weather today and since the forecast was favorable, I hopped in my car and took the 2:15 drive to Cleveland.
Since it was Saturday, I had some things working against me:
1) Gates don’t open until 5:30 on weekends
2) Cliff Lee bobblehead day
3) The skies darkened up and it looked like it was going to storm.
When I arrived at Progressive Field around 4, the cage was set up, but I was afraid BP would be wiped out due to the menacing dark clouds. (The lights were on at the stadium).
I walked to the box office and bought the cheapest ticket I could, $9. I then made my way back to the right field gate. It was about 4:15, and a large crowd was gathering. I was about 15th in line. It turns out that there were hundreds of people there for faith night. They were going to hear testimony from Indians player Jamey Carroll.
Imagine my surprise when a supervisor announced that they would be opening the gates an hour early at 4:30! Thank you Jesus!
And stood in line for 10 minutes to buy a cheeseburger combo meal for $9.25.
When the game started I first sat by the foul pole in right field.
But eventually moved to the left field home run porch. Notice all of the fans are standing at the fence.
If a home run were hit, they would have a slim chance of catching it. I stood by the garbage cans, awaiting a home run that would never come.
The Tigers won the game 4-0.
A look at today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 5 Balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 89 Balls (35 hit, 44 thrown, 10 device)
Games: 17 Games (14 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.24 balls per game
Career: 255 Balls
I attended today’s game with my wife. I had to wait for her to get home for work, so we didn’t get to the stadium until 4:55 PM, just in time before the 5 PM gate opening.
Usually I get 1 ball during the Pirates portion during the week (they only hit for about 10-15 more minutes after the gates open). Today, though, I had 4 balls by 5:04. I’ve never gotten off to a start like that in my life.
Ball #1 was tossed from Nyjer Morgan.
Game: 10 balls (4 hit, 4 thrown, 2 device)
Season: 84 balls (32 hit, 43 thrown, 9 device)
Games: 16 games (13 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 5.25 balls per game
Career: 250 balls
Throughout the day, I thought for sure that batting practice would be canceled. It was raining this morning when I left for work. Raining when I went to lunch. Raining when I left work. Drizzling when I left for the game. So, imagine my surprise when I walked past the left field gates and saw the screens and cage being set up. (The Pirates needed the extra BP after not hitting a home run in more than a week and getting shut out yesterday).
Upon entering the stadium, there was one Easter Egg ball, but another ballhawk got to it first. The Pirates portion of batting practice was slow for me. I got ball #1 when Jason Jaramillo tossed me a baseball before the Pirates finished up at 5:15. Jaramillo was very gracious to all three regular ballhawks in attendance, hooking us each up with a ball.
A few action shows:
I usually get shut out at the dugout, having only received one ball there this year before today. The umpire, Bob Davidson came off the field and tossed me a really nice rubbed up game ball. Ball #7.
Not a bad night after all.
Here’s today’s balls:
And the sweet spots: (the 4th ball from the pitcher in center had MVP written on it)
The umpire ball is at the front and center.
Game: 7 balls (2 hit, 5 thrown)
Season: 74 balls (28 hit, 39 thrown, 7 device)
Games: 15 games (12 with BP, 3 without)
Average: 4.93 balls per game
Career: 240 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
I got into line at 3:30 (an hour before the gates were to open), and was the 8th person in the stadium. I was the third one into the bleachers. There were 2 easter eggs, but another ballhawk got them first.
About 10 minutes or so passed with no action. I noticed a ball roll directly to the fence where the stands jut out towards the foul line in left field. I decided to vacate my spot and go grab the ball. I ran up the escalator to the main concourse, and then down the stairs and reached over the fence and grabbed ball #1. Then, I immediately went back to the bleachers. I snapped this picture when I returned to the bleacher area to illustrate where the ball was. (The small yellow X)
Game: 6 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 64 balls (26 hit, 31 thrown, 7 device)
Games: 13 games (11 with BP, 2 without)
Average: 4.92 balls per game
Career: 230 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