8-17-09 PNC Park

The Pirates were back in town today, facing the hated Brew-Crew.

This was my view from 4:15-4:55. 
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My friend Nick and I noticed a ballhawk running by who stands on the Riverwalk on a daily basis, waiting for home runs.  Since he does it regularly, he must have at least some luck out there.  (The guy stays out there the entire BP, even after the gates open).  So, with nothing better to do, we decided to join him.

There was indeed one ball that came out in the time we were there.  It bounced off of the concourse behind section 140, and went through the trees towards the river.  The guy ran over and made a nice backhanded pick of the ball, just before it skipped into the Allegheny River. 

Ballhawking on the Riverwalk is tough.  You have to be very patient, and extemely focused.  If you look away for a minute, or listen to a passerby’s comments, you’ll be distracted and miss a possible opportunity.

At one point, a photographer walked by and asked me what I was doing.  I told him that batting practice was going on, and we were waiting for a ball to come out.  He the proceeded to take pictures of the three of us ballhawks for the next fifteen minutes, from all angles.  He never asked permission, or told us if he was affiliated with any newspaper.   (I assumed he was with the Post Gazette or Tribune Review) In the picture below, you can see him sitting on the ground, snapping photos of Nick Pelescak.
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He threw me ball #3.  (It probably helped that I was the only fan in Brewers gear for the first 30 minutes).

One guy, who watched me get those balls tossed, made a few comments about how I “have all these shirts in the back of my car.”  I couldn’t tell if he was trying to make fun of me, or not, but he went on to say the same line about five more times throughout the day to people around him. 

I got ball #4 via the glove trick in left field.  I struggled with this one, probably taking almost two minutes to reel it in.  I had to first knock it closer, and then the rubber band wasn’t quite right.  I had to adjust it several times.  As the rubber band gets used, it becomes more stretchy, and needs adjusted differently.  I was almost foiled by Brewers coach Joe Crawford.  When I finally got the ball to stick in the glove, Crawford hurled his glove from about forty feet away, in an attempt to knock the ball out of my glove.  Luckily, I had just begun to pull the ball up, and it narrowly missed it.  He came over to get his glove, and had a huge smile on his face.  “This wall is too low here.  Its too easy for you guys to do that.”

A little while later, I caught ball #5 on the fly.  It was a can of corn.  However, Jody Gerut watched me make the catch, and immediately started screaming at me from left field.  “That’s TWO for you now. Do the right thing!”  I nodded.  He screamed about three more times, “Do the right thing, Do the right thing, Do the right thing.”  At this point several Brewers were staring at me, and Gerut pointed me out to them, probably telling them that he had just tossed me a ball moments earlier.

I quickly went into my backpack and took out one of my decoy balls.  (Balls that I have that I didn’t personally snag and don’t count in my stats or my collection.  These are MLB balls that friends have given to me in exchange for tickets). 

I held up the decoy ball for Gerut to see and tossed it to the nearest kid with a glove.  He gave me a thumbs up.  I yelled to him, “That’s a Pirate ball from earlier.”  I wanted him to keep the impression that I was a huge Brewers fan and wanted to keep just the Brewers baseballs. 

I spent a few minutes in center field and chickened out on a very glove trickable ball.  The nice ushers weren’t in center field today, and I didn’t feel l
ike getting yelled at.  Plus, I had struggled mightly with ball #4, and didn’t want to go through that again.

After Claudio Vargas picked up the ball that I should’ve glove tricked and tossed it to a kid, I headed back to left field.

There, I made almost back to back catches of home runs on the fly.  They were hit in the same general area, and only about 30 seconds apart.  I have no idea who hit them. 

I caught ball #6 on the fly in a completely empty row B.  As I made the catch, some old guy made a feeble attempt at the ball, and crashed into me.  Like a pillar, I didn’t budge.  Since he went down fairly hard, I asked him if he was ok – and he was.

The second home run was hit soon after, and I had an entire empty row to my right, so I took off quickly and ran about 50 feet to my right to snag ball #7.  I made the catch in front of a group of teenagers.  Feeling they had been robbed, having seen me catch the other home run seconds before, and feeling anger at the Brewers gear I was sporting, they booed me mercilessly for about 20 seconds.

I just looked at them and smiled. 

I had to leave at 6PM to attend a varsity head coaches meeting, that didn’t end until 9PM.  My phone had very limited service, so I wasn’t able to get updates on the game. 

I was squirming in my chair more than John Russell does when Matt Capps enters the game in a save situation.

Today’s baseballs:
photo(285).jpgSweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  7 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  288 balls (146 hit, 89 thrown, 53 device)
Games: 60 games (6 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.80 balls per game
Career:  454 balls
Streak:  75 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  12,478

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