August 2009

8-15-09 Oriole Park at Camden Yards

I was back in Bird Town for the second time this week.
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Since the Orioles had a left hander starting, the Angels would have plenty of right handed bats hitting (since they have a fair share of switch hitters).  I felt quite confident that I’d be able to improve on my three ball showing from this past Monday.

I arrived at Camden Yards at 3:45ish, and saw this:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  2 balls (2 thrown)
Season:  281 balls (142 hit, 87 thrown, 52 device)
Games: 59 games (6 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.76 balls per game
Career:  447 balls
Streak: 
74 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  28,770

2009 By Stadium:
Camden Yards 4 games 13 balls (9 hit, 3 thrown, 1 device)   3.25 balls per game

8-12-09 Progressive Field

I decided to make the trip back to Cleveland for the second consecutive day.  The previous day, I had snagged twelve baseballs.  However, today, I would struggle a bit.

I was the first one in line, and therefore was the first fan into the seats.  I immediately started looking for Easter Eggs.  Usually, the seats are littered with baseballs.  Not today.  Not a single Easter Egg anywhere.  Either an usher or employee had picked them all up, or the Indians did not take their customary early cuts in batting practice.

I would have to try and earn some the old fashioned way. 

I had my first chance at a ball that landed a few seats away from me.  I was moving toward the ball, but wasn’t fast enough to get to the spot before it landed.  The ball hit off of a chair and popped straight up in the air.  I started to reach up to grab the ball barehanded when some teenager a row up from me appeared seemingly out of thin air, and jumped to grab the ball just as it was about to land into my outstretched hand.  I was pretty mad with myself.

Later, another home run was hit, and I scurried over to the spot.  The ball landed in an empty row behind me, so I bent down to scoop the ball up with my glove.  Never pick up a ball with your glove.  The ball was firmly in my glove, and I had begun to lift it up, when a man grabbed onto my glove and ripped the ball out of it.  I glared at him and said, “Wow, are you serious?”

Apparently not, because he immediately tossed me the ball.  I don’t know if he had done it was a joke or what.  Then I had to deliberate whether or not to count the ball in my collection. 

Any ball tossed to me or given to me by a fan does not count.  I eventually decided that since I had clear possession of the ball first, it would count.  I further concluded had the man snatched the ball from me and not given it back, I still would’ve counted it.  It was not a great way to get ball #1, and I needed to get more.

I continued to try and get batted balls in the right field/center field seats.
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Balls just weren’t coming at me today.  To make matters worse, the Indians portion of batting practice was just about over, and the seats were getting cluttered with fans.

There weren’t many fans, just enough to block up every one of the first 10-15 rows, thereby limiting my range.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  4 balls (1 hit, 3 device)
Season:  279 balls (142 hit, 85 thrown, 52 device)
Games: 58 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.81 balls per game
Career:  445 balls
Streak:  73 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  18,794

8-11-09 Progressive Field

Today was a weird and unconventional snagging day.  I would catch zero balls off the bat, and only snag one ball thrown by a player.  Yet, somehow I managed to break double digits.

I was the second one in line when I got to the gate.  About fifteen minutes before the gates were to open, the old woman in front of me spared two of her friends, a father and his daughter, a little girl of about six years old.  Little did I know that the daughter would go on to snag 12 balls of her own today, and assist me with three of my snags.

When the gates opened, I ran in to the bleachers and immediately found ball #1 about six rows back.  I continued towards the visitor bullpen, and found ball #2 sitting in an aisle seat.  I continued on towards the visitor bullpen and found ball #3 lying in the front row. 

I wasn’t done searching.  I walked over to the Indians bullpen and saw a ball laying in the front row.  There were people standing in front of it, but hadn’t noticed it laying underneath the chair behind them.  I walked in the second row, bent down, and picked up ball #4.  It was extremely water-logged.  I tried to write ’433′ on it, but it was just too wet.  I’ll have to wait until it dries out to re-label the ball.

When I picked up ball #4, I immediately noticed ball #5, which was about fifteen feet out, on top of the Indians bullpen.
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I went to work.  I tossed my glove out and pulled it in, knocking the ball a good ten feet or so closer.    I took out my ‘Cleveland Stick,’ the collapsible six foot yard stick, and hooked the ball towards me.  I reached over and grabbed the ball, for my fifth of the day.  The father and daughter who were in line in front of me watched me make the snag. 

After finding those first five balls, I tried to play for home run balls. 
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STATISTICS:
Game:  12 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 7 device)
Season:  275 balls (141 hit, 85 thrown, 49 device)
Games: 57 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.82 balls per game
Career:  441 balls
Streak:  72 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  21,870

8-10-09 Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Since the Pirates are out of town for a week, and I’d like to snag my 500th career ball sometime in 2009, I decided that I needed to make a road trip or two this week.  My first stop would be Camden Yards in Baltimore.

I attended this game with two friends, one of whom is in the ballhawk league (Andrew). 

We arrived at 3:30 and got our tickets.  There are two gates that open at 5:00.  The Eutaw Street gate near the Babe Ruth statue…
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And the one on the opposite end, nearest to the right field foul pole. 
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Which didn’t happen.

We stayed l
ong enough to watch all of the batters from each team hit, and then left the game early.  We had a four hour + drive, and made it back home a bit after midnight.

Here are today’s baseballs:
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And the sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 balls (3 hit)
Season:  263 balls (137 hit, 84 thrown, 42 device)
Games: 56 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.70 balls per game
Career:  429 balls
Streak:  71 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  14,688

8-8-09 PNC Park

O.A.R. is in town playing a post game concert to coincide with fireworks set off from a barge on the river, the Clemente bridge, atop the scoreboard, and buildings across the river.  Tonight was night two of the annual Skyblast Series, a popular Pirates promotion.

This game was the 700th game in the history of PNC Park, the seventh largest crowd in the history of PNC Park, and the largest ever Skyblast crowd.  Additionally, it was the largest crowd of the 2009 season.

Luckily, the skies were threatening earlier in the day, keeping some fans away from batting practice.  As a result, there were slightly less fans than attended yesterday.

Since it was a Saturday game, the gates opened a half hour earlier than during the week.  I was in line by 3:30, and was the first one into the stadium.  My plan was to get off to a big start by picking up a bunch of Easter Eggs.  Another Saturday special perk is that the entire seating bowl is also open to season ticket holders, rather than just the left field bleachers.  (Season Ticket holders are confined to left field only during weekdays).

I ran in and checked to lower bleachers.  Nothing.
I hopped up the steps and checked the upper general admission bleachers.  Nothing.
I ran over into foul territory and checked all of the upper and lower sections along the left field line.  Nothing. 
The only thing I did find was an old usher with a devilish wry smile on his face as I walked back up the stairs empty handed to return to left field.  I had a feeling he had pocketed several balls, as I’ve personally seen him do so at previous games.

I was shut out for the first twenty minutes of batting practice.  My plan to get on the board was to ask new Pirate Jose Ascanio for a ball in Spanish.

I moved down to the front row, waiting for Ascanio to snag a ball. 

laroche.jpgSoon, Andy LaRoche hit a line drive that carried fairly deep into the outfield.  It hit on the grass and took a medium sized hop towards the wall, right where I was standing.  I reacted and reached down over the wall and snagged ball #1.  Unfortunately, Ascanio was about ten feet away watching.  Now, I couldn’t ask him for a ball today, as he had just seen me snag one.  I’ll have to save that request for another day.

I didn’t get another ball until near the very end of the Pirates batting practice.  Many of the Pirates righties must’ve been watching the Cardinals take batting practice yesterday, because they took the exact same approach – trying to inside out every pitch to right field.

Luckily, Steve Pearce hit a towering home run towards me.  I had to hobble over one section and just managed to snag the ball at the last second.  After catching ball #2, I stumbled a bit and regained my balance by grabbing onto the bleacher back support.  (My range is improving a bit.  My back, which has ailed me for the last nine days, has felt markedly better since I started using a hydrocolater pad yesterday.  I even went without my back brace today.)

Upon inspecting the Pearce home run ball, I noticed an awesome green smudge.  Likely from the batting cage?
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and the sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  5 balls (3 hit, 2 device)
Season:  260 balls (134 hit, 84 thrown, 42 device)
Games: 55 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.73 balls per game
Career:  426 balls
Streak:  70 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  38,593

8-7-09 PNC Park

Today wasn’t a banner day for me.  The Cardinals were in town, and they are historically a tough team for batting practice.  Although they have a decent amount of right handed batters, they work exclusively on hitting the ball the other way for a majority of their cuts.  This results in less home runs being hit to the left field bleachers, which is where I normally patrol.

I did manage to get on the board early, as I spotted bench coach Gary Varsho teaching Lastings Milledge how to correctly catch a fly ball.
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I’m sure many parents with young children were real thrilled with FSN’s decision to show this man with blood pouring down his face.

At first I was thinking, “What a freaking idiot.”  Then, my disdain for the man turned to remorse when I saw he had a disabled son who was with him.

Albert Pujols was the first one to the man, and stayed with him, holding his neck on the ground, the entire ten minutes.  It tells you a lot about Albert Pujols as a person. 

After ten minutes, they stabilized the man on a stretcher, and carted him off the field.

Predictably, the Pirates would go on to blow the lead and lose their sixth game in a row.  The Washington Nationals are only seven games ahead of the Pirates now in the worst record in baseball category.&nb
sp; Uh oh.

Today’s baseballs:
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Sweet spots:
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STATISTICS:
Game:  2 balls (2 thrown)
Season:  255 balls (131 hit, 84 thrown, 40 device)
Games: 54 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.72 balls per game
Career:  421 balls
Streak:  69 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  24,854

8-6-09 PNC Park

Today, I was the first one in to the left field bleachers.  I had the whole area to myself for at least sixty seconds.  However, there were no Easter Eggs, and no home runs sailing into the bleachers.  Alas, I failed to get any balls during the Pirates portion of batting practice.

When the Diamondbacks came out to hit, I disappeared for a moment underneath the general admission bleachers to change.  However, I realized that I had left my Diamondbacks shirt at home.  I had taken it out of my bag last night so it wouldn’t get all wrinkled, and neglected to re-pack it today before I left.  I was grumbling at myself for being an idiot for a good part of the D’backs BP.

The crowd today was 17,000 – which doesn’t seem like a lot.  Unfortunately, during batting practice, fans managed to clog up all of the rows in the bleachers.  Most sections in the bleachers are only six rows deep, so once 5:30 rolls around, and all of the non-season ticket holders come in, it gets pretty jammed up.    It just takes one person to block a whole row.  Most people who come to batting practice just stand there and only react when a ball is hit right at them.
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I’d prefer to always have a row open to my left and my right.  Today, it didn’t matter though, as I couldn’t move after any balls anyway due to my extremely slow-in-recovering back.

I did manage to snag two balls during the Diamondbacks portion of batting practice.  They were both in left field, and they were both with the glove trick.

I went to right field and center field during BP, but was shut out there as well.

After batting practice ended, I checked out the batters eye area in center field.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 balls (3 device)
Season:  253 balls (131 hit, 82 thrown, 40 device)
Games: 53 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.77 balls per game
Career:  419 balls
Streak:  68 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  17,311

8-5-09 PNC Park

When I woke up this morning, I was paying the price for staying for the entire game yesterday.  Also, it didn’t help that I lifted weights for an hour when I got home (just dumb bells – and it didn’t hurt my back at all at the time when I did it.)

When I took my first step to go downstairs this morning, my body locked up with another round of back spasms.  Will these ever go away?

Luckily, by the time the afternoon rolled around, I was able to somewhat walk, and went to the game.

I was probably the 3rd person into the bleachers, managing to execute an award jog/walk to pass by other ballhawks that might feel silly sprinting in.  There were two balls to be had, and Bryan Pelescak, another top notch ballhawk at PNC Park, got both of them.  He would go on to snag at least seven balls today.

I got my first ball about fifteen minutes into batting practice.  Mark Reynolds hit a monster shot into the second deck of the bleachers.  Home runs rarely ever go up there.  If balls do land there, its usually after bouncing off of concrete in the lower section.  Reynolds’ home run landed about four rows back, and I scurried up the stairs after it.  Luckily, no one else gave pursuit.

Before picking up the ball, I snapped a picture of ball #1.
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A bit later in the round, another Diamondback came up and hit a home run right down the line.  Luckily, I was standing nearby and was able to walk over and pick up ball #2 in the walkway between the left field rotunda and section 133.

I tried asking a few Diamondbacks for balls, but without luck.  There was one D’back that was particularly devilish.  He kept turning to the crowd and waving.  Several times he flaunted the ball towards the crowd, before hurling it back in towards the infield.  He gave up one ball, and it was one that he tossed into the second deck of bleachers.  He likely just wanted to see a scramble for the ball.

I tried chasing down another home run, but it was picked up by an employee who handed it to a kid.

Walking back, I caught a home run (ball #3) at the very back of section 135, just below the second set of bleachers.  I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.

When 5:30 rolled around, and the rest of the stadium opened, I went over to center field to claim a ball from the center field batter’s eye.  The area is covered in ivy, and spells the word Pirates.  There is a fence that prevents any fans from entering the area to get balls.  Well, yesterday, there was a ball about eight feet in that would’ve been reachable had I brought my ‘Cleveland Stick’ – that collapsible measuring device that I use to get balls out of Heritage Park.  Unfortunately, the ball mysteriously had vanished. 

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Sweet spots:

STATISTICS:
Game:  6 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  250 balls (131 hit, 82 thrown, 37 device)
Games: 52 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.81 balls per game
Career:  416 balls
Streak:  67 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  11,470

USAToday Article

I was interviewed recently by Alex Prewitt, a sports writer for USAToday.  He came across this blog, and was intrigued about the Ballhawk League and ballhawking in general.  I spoke with him by telephone for 40 minutes Sunday afternoon.  He had lots of great questions, so I was really looking forward to the article.

The print version is a bit shorter than the online version. 

To read the entire online version, click HERE.

Here is a screen shot of the online version:
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8-4-09 PNC Park

Today got off to an awful start – I was denied entrance upon the gates opening.  I had arrived at 4:15, waiting in line for 45 minutes, and when it came time for my ticket to be scanned, I heard that heart stopping sound, “beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.” 

After attempting to scan the ticket thrice more, the employee told me that I couldn’t enter the park, and had to walk halfway around the park to Customer Service.  I was unbelievably irritated. 

On Monday, I had traded in several tickets that I won’t be able to use for a future game.  Of my three season tickets, I traded in two from today’s game.  The man who made the exchange hastily canceled the tickets in the computer system, and canceled the wrong seat numbers. 

By the time I got a ticket reprinted and got back into the ballpark, the Diamondbacks were already hitting.  I had missed the Pirates batting practice – and I wasn’t happy. 

To show my displeasure, I flung my backpack about eight feet, hoping it would slam off the bleacher, as to let the world know that I was ****** off.  Of course, the strap from the bag caught on the back support of the bleacher and caught the bag.  I couldn’t even slam my backpack down in disgust right today.

Once I entered the bleachers, I immediately spotted a ball on the warning track.  After flinging my glove out onto the field several times to nudge the ball closer, I reeled in ball #1 of the day.

Ball #2 came from (I think) Conor Jackson.  He came over to the warning track after I had used the glove trick.  I kept my glove out of view and on the bleacher, to look helpless.  I also got an assist from my Diamondbacks gear, as he happily tossed me ball #2.

After wasting some time in foul ground at 5:30, I headed over to the right field wall.
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The wall, dubbed the Clemente Wall, is dubiously steep, and tough to catch balls because of it.

I did manage to get ball #3 off the bat of a D’backs lefty.  It was hit a section to my left, and I walked over to get it.  Keep in mind, I am still suffering from bad back spasms, so I can’t move quickly.  Another ballhawk, Harold, was going for the same ball.  He pulled up and let me get this one, possibly aware of the fragility of my back.

Harold is widely known by the PNC Park faithful as having caught 830 some balls over the past 30+ years at PNC Park and Three Rivers Stadium.  He attends nearly every game and can be seen roaming the top of the Clemente Wall throughout BP.

Near the end of batting practice, I snagged ball #4 on the ricochet.  It bounced several rows back and shot up in the air, sailing back towards the field.  I braced myself against the railing seen in the picture below, and gingerly leaned out, snagging the ball barehanded. 
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STATISTICS:
Game:  4 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  244 balls (127 hit, 81 thrown, 36 device)
Games: 51 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.78 balls per game
Career:  410 balls
Attendance:  11,294

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