September 2009

9-27-09 PNC Park

Today would be my final game of the season at PNC Park. 

After missing yesterday’s (Saturday’s) game due to rain, I decided that I had to make it to the park one last time, even though it was raining when I left my house.

When I arrived at the park, there was basically no one there at all.  Many people stayed away early, which turned out to be a good thing. 

Around 11:15, pitchers began to meander out of the Pirates dugout and head toward the bullpen to sit and await to rain to ease up. 
I stood by the fence above the bullpen and hoped someone would begin to throw.

Eventually, Charlie Morton (hidden by the bullpen roof) started to throw with Luis Dorante, the Pirates bullpen coach.  I watched them finish up at 11:29, one minute before the gate would open to allow me to get close enough to ask for a ball. 
There were two pairs of Dodgers playing catch.

I noticed that Ramon Tronsoco didn’t have a partner.  I held up my glove and asked him if he wanted to throw a little bit.  He nodded and tossed me a ball.  Wow.  I was finally going to play catch with a major leaguer.  In uniform.

We began to throw, and after about ten tosses, I handed my p
hone off to a random guy behind me to take some photos.  He had been asking me questions like, “Do you play for the Pirates?  Are you friends with him?  How do you know him?” 

He got the following photos of me:
When I got home, I checked out Youtube for #1 Joe Beimel fan TroyfromWV, sure enough, he had uploaded a partial video of me and Ramon throwing together. Click here–> VIDEO PROOF!

After we threw for awhile, Troncoso’s throwing partner finally emerged from the dugout, and Troncoso tossed me the ball and indicated that he was done.   I had ball #5.  What a way to get it!  I thanked Troncoso, and gave one of my decoy balls to the daughter of the guy that snapped some pictures of me.

When the game began, center field was too crowded to have a great chance at toss up balls. 
Plus, the usher told me I had to stay out because I didn’t have a ticket.  He was nice about it, and told me there was a big issue on Saturday Night where someone was injured in a fight for a toss up ball.  He said the man was going to sue the Pirates, and that outfield between inning toss ups would be discontinued after this year.  I was hoping he wasn’t serious, but he seemed to be.

In the second inning, I went up on the right field wall, and got Garrett Jones to pick me out and throw me ball #6 – oh wait, he grossly underthrew me, and the ball hit some guy that was sitting down.  The ball caromed off of him, and rolled behind his wife’s backside and sat on her seat.  It took them about 10 seconds to find it – and I could’ve easily grabbed it, but it would’ve been too awkward.  I watched them oodle over the ball they had just snagged by accident, much to my frustration.
I decided to quit ballhawking and went up to sit in my season ticket seats one last time.  I hadn’t sat there much at all this year, but I felt like I needed to say goodbye.
Even though the seats are cheap, and offer no chance at getting a ball – I always liked to just sit and watch a game there.  In my seats you’ve got a great view, and they are in the front row of the section.
In the 7th inning, I sat behind home plate,
in hopes of snagging some promotional items from Pirates announcer Steve Blass in the “7th inning throw down.”  Blass threw out a bunch of left over giveaway hats, grocery bags, Pirate dolls, candy, etc. 
I got my finger tip on a Pirates Alternate hat, but it was just out of my reach and floated down to a lady two rows below me.  I didn’t come away empty handed – I caught a piece of Double Bubble bubble gum.  Yay. 

For the 8th inning, I snuck down and sat behind the Pirates dugout.  The Pirates ended up scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to acheive a walk off win.
photo(502).jpgI was expecting the players to toss their hats and a few baseballs into the crowd as a thank you to the fans – they’ve done it the past three years on Fan Appreciation Day.

It didn’t happen.  The players disappeared into the dugout, gave their jerseys to those fans whose seats had been chosen, and
disappeared for good.  Nothing was thrown into the crowd.  Very disappointing. 
I stayed around until almost everyone was gone, and took one last look at PNC Park.
Was this my last game of 2009?  Maybe…

Today’s baseballs:
Sweet spots:
Game:  5 balls (5 thrown)
Season:  405 balls (211 hit, 124 thrown, 70 device)
Games: 80 games (10 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  5.06 balls per game
Career:  571 balls
Streak:  95 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  26,831

9-25-09 PNC Park

Today’s game may be my final batting practice of the season – I may only attend one more game, and it’s a day game after a night game.  You know what that means…

Meanwhile, I had been watching the weather, and decided that I would not attend tomorrows (Saturday’s) game.  It is a Skyblast date, and the chance of rain is 100%.  That means no batting practice, large crowds, and an all around tougher time snagging balls.  I would need to have a huge day – I wanted reach the 400 balls snagged in one year benchmark.

Chaos had broken out in Pittsburgh the night before due to the G20 summit.  I was hoping that this would scare people away from coming out early to batting practice – even if the Pirates were giving away Bobbleheads to entice folks to watch a potential 100 loss team.

I was second in line at PNC Park, arriving an hour and a half early.  Helicopters hovered over my head,  regiments of soldiers passed on foot patrol
and there was even the cavalry passing by.
We were standing directly next to each other.  Manny turned and lofted the ball at us.  It was no contest.  I had longer arms, and made the catch about a foot in front of the other guys glove.  It was ball #6.  I also think it may have been the only ball that Manny threw into the crowd in his time in left field.

Another few minutes passed by, and two
more balls rolled to the wall.  I reeled up ball #7 with the glove trick, and did the same with ball #8.  Randy Wolf was coming over to pick up ball #8, but realized that I had it covered with the glove trick, and let it go, turning back to left field.

The ballpark had only been opened for 25 minutes, and I had already snagged 8 balls.  Could I challenge the Jabs/Pelescak PNC Park record of 14? 

No, as things slowed way, way down.  The Dodgers’ batting practice approach reminded me of the Cardinals’ in that the hit many balls to the opposite field.

I was getting frustrated.  The place looked like this around 5:30:
Which is nice, but there were still some folks clogging up rows, making me readjust my routes to any ball that was potentially coming into the stands.

These people got in my way a few times:
And this guy was the worse, because he stayed in virtually the same spot, but kept moving up or down one row, so I had to keep checking on his location.  
I try to always familiarize myself with my surroundings almost before every BP pitch so I don’t crash into anyone or get blocked off from going for a ball.

In the last group, Ronny Belliard lofted a high fly ball that bounced on the warning track.  I moved over a section and positioned myself perfectly to catch the high bounce.  It was ball #9.

I only needed one more ball to complete my quest to get 400 balls.  I had began the 2009 season with a goal of 300, but after reaching that last month on August 20th, I had made 400 a new goal for the season, to keep me motivated for the last five weeks of the season.

It was about 6:05ish, and batting practice was about to end in a few minutes.  I was then faced with a tough decision.  Stay in left field, which looked like this at 6:00….
or head over to center field to try and glove trick a ball that had rolled to the wall.

I decided to go give the ball a try.  I rigged up the glove trick on the way over to center field, and non-chalantly made my way down to the front row.  (I didn’t want to draw attention from the ushers by sprinting in there).

I looked around at the Dodgers players.  No one was in a hurry to come get the ball, which was directly below me at the base of the wall.
With that in mind, I lowered my glove down over the ball, and reeled in ball #10.

Ball #300 and #400 of 2009 had both come via the glove trick.  Snagging 400 balls in a season is quite an accomplishment.  I believe only Zack Hample, myself, and probably the Happy Youngster (who will likely do it soon) have snagged 400 or more regular season balls in one season.

After snagging the ball, I asked my friend Nick (who is closing in on 300 balls in one season) to snap my picture.
erik 400.jpg
I then got 25 extra tickets scanned, and lugged the bobbleheads back to my car.  Noticing a large crowd waiting to get in the stadium (due to all the extra security measures), I decided to leave and not stay for the game. 

If I end the season on an even 400, that would be a pretty cool thing anyway.

Today’s baseballs:
Sweet spots:
Game:  10 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown, 5 device)
Season:  400 balls (211 hit, 119 thrown, 70 device)
Games: 79 games (9 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  5.06 balls per game
Career:  566 balls
Streak:  94 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  19,452

9-24-09 Progressive Field

After leaving PNC Park around 1:25, I made it to Progressive Field in Cleveland, and was in line at 3:32.  I was second in line.  This would be my second game of the day. 

When I ran in, I didn’t find any easter eggs on the ground.  I paced up and down each aisle and did manage to find ball #1 and ball #2 laying in seats.  The second ball was an International League (AAA) ball – which the Tigers are known to use in lieu of major league baseballs.  I was pretty happy because I didn’t have any of these yet this year.  After snagging 300 some regular major league baseballs this season, any variation is a welcomed departure from the mean.

Within the span of a minute, I lost out on three home run balls in center field.  All three balls bounced on this six foot wide concrete platform seperating the outfield wall from the seats:
The balls took huge hops and landed about 15 rows back, and I wasn’t able to get to any of them in time.

Ball #3 was thrown by an Indians pitcher (standing on the left of the two pitchers).
I had competition from behind, with two guys trying to reach other the seats to grab the ball.  I got to the ball a split second before them, snatching it with my bare hand.  Guess what?  Another Metrodome commemorative!

Things then slowed way down for me.  I wouldn’t get another ball for the next half hour.

I watched Miguel Cabrera pepper the left field bleachers with home run balls.  There was only one usher there picking them all up, and he had his work cut out for him.

One of Cabrera’s homers nearly hit th
e scoreboard.  It landed in the very top row of the bleachers (as marked by the red X in the picture below.)
At 6:00, I ran over to those left field bleachers to look for some easter eggs that the usher potentially may have missed.  I searched the rows at the bottom, and watched as one teenager found one.  I then ran up towards the top of the bleachers, and found this waiting for me, three rows from the top.
Yes, another Metrodome ball – my fifth commemorative of the day, and ball #9.

Things in left field weren’t going well, so I made my way back over to right field as the final lefties were finishing up.

Curtis Granderson ( i think – a black left handed batter ) – hit a deep home run to my left in right field.  Again, it was going to be about two sections over, so I put my head down and ran over to where I judged it was going to land.  I ended up making a really nice catch on the run for ball #10 of the day.  I got a nice hand from the few people that were still in right field watching batting practice.  It was also my fifth consecutive Metrodome ball snagged, and my sixth commemorative of the day.

Two pitches later, Granderson hit another home run to right field.  This ball was high in the air, and I had plenty of time to weave and correct my route so I’d be in the right spot.  I caught the ball with a basket style catch for ball #11.  It was the last hit of BP, as the Tigers then ran off the field.  I quickly snapped this picture right after batting practice ended to show all the room I had.
I love weekday batting practices at Progressive Field.

I left after batting practice, happy that after snagging 14 yesterday, I had snagged 15 today (albeit over 2 games).  It was a new “one-day” record for me.

On my way out of the stadium, I had a few reminders from the trees that fall was here, and baseball season was almost over.
Farewell Progressive Field – See you next year
Today’s baseballs:
photo(465).jpgSweet spots
Game:  11 balls (8 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  390 balls (208 hit, 117 thrown, 65 device)
Games: 78 games (9 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  5.00 balls per game
Career:  556 balls
Streak:  93 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  23,516
Race for 400 in 2009:  Need 10 in 3 games,  3.33 per game

9-24-09 PNC Park

Thanks to the G20, I was off work today.  If I had to work, I wouldn’t have been able to attend this game.  Since I’m on a quest to get 400 balls – I decided to add a bonus game to my ledger today.  The plan was to attend today’s game, and leave and drive to Cleveland for a nightcap.

After snagging 14 balls yesterday, I was hoping to hit double digits again between these two games.

Once again, Pittsburgh was a military zone.  Check out this scene right outside PNC Park:
When I got in line, I was shocked to see that I was about 15th-20th in line, even though I had arrive a half hour early.  Autograph seekers were there bright and early because Thursdays are alumni autograph days at PNC Park.

10:30 rolled around and the gates should’ve opened, but it didn’t.  The Pirates were taking extra precautions, and had to wait for the head security guy to come help set up tables.  Upset at the lost time, I noticed that the Trib Total Media Hall of Fame club line was slowly moving.  I ran down there to get in.  After emptying my pockets into a container and being throroughly wanded my a Pittsburgh Police officer, I was let in. 

Despite being 20th in line at the outset, I was the first one into the left field bleachers.  There was nothing going on.  No batting practice today.

Eventually, Daniel McCutchen came out to throw with Herbie Andrade.

When they were finished, Herbie (shown in the upper right) – turned and threw the ball directly at me.  It was a little high, so I had to hop up to make the catch of ball #1.
and started rolling through the aisle to the left.  The ball rolled an entire section, and I was in hot pursuit.  Unfortunately, I got blocked off by a railing.  The ball came to a rest no less than four feet from me, but the railing was blocking me.  I hesitated for a split second, deciding if I should dive over the railing.  The hesitation cost me the ball, as a man ran back and grabbed the ball.

I left the game after the 3rd inning to head to Cleveland.  I wanted to get there at 3:30, so
I could be first in line…..

Today’s baseballs:
Sweet spots:
Game:  4 balls (3 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  379 balls (200 hit, 115 thrown, 64 device)
Games: 77 games (9 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.92 balls per game
Career:  545 balls
Streak:  92 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  15,892 (again, 2,000-3,000 in attendance)
Race for 400 in 2009:  Need 21 in 4 games,  5.25 per game

9-23-09 PNC Park

I missed Monday’s and Tuesday’s games due to prior commitments.  I was able to catch part of them on tv, and believe me, it was brutal.  The crowds were as sparse as I had ever seen.

On Tuesday, fellow ballhawk league member and PNC Park ballhawk league member Nick Pelescak went on a rampage.  He texted me to let me know that he had caught 11 balls during batting practice.  The recognized official PNC Park record was 13 – set by me, back on June 13th 2009.

As the night went on, Nick would get a toss up ball during the game from Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Moss.  It would come down to the players coming off of the field for Nick.  Fortunately for him, Tim Tschida tossed him a ball as he walked off the field, giving Nick Pelescak the new PNC Park ballhawk record of 14 balls snagged in one game.  After just three months, my name had been erased from the record book.

I was glad for Nick – and was more motivated than ever to do my best to get the record back.  Since about June 21st or so, around when the Indians/Pirates series began, I have put myself through a rigorous workout schedule.  Every other day I lift weights – on the off days, I run three miles.

Today, I would forego my fitness and wellbeing to stay for the entire game, and maybe, just maybe, get that record back.

Around 2:45 PM, it started to rain hard, so I was about 95% sure that batting practice would be cancelled.  At 3:30, I got a text from Nick saying the tarp was on the field.  I decided that maybe I could get three balls today from pitchers and what not – and that would be a good day.

I arrived at the stadium a little after 4 PM, and faced no traffic at all on the way in.  Pittsburgh is officially a ghost town for the next three days.  The G20 summit is here, and it has basically transformed Pittsburgh into a military state.

I went down to the riverwalk to wait for Brandon Moss, Garrett Jones, or Ryan Doumit to send one out of the stadium.  Usually, the riverwalk is bustling with people.  Typically, I am asked no less than 50 times, “What are you doing?  Trying to get a ball?  Do they ever come out here?  How many came out today?  What happens if it goes in the river?”

Today however,
photo(416).jpgGhost town.

There were military choppers flying over every so often. 

And to my right.
Lots of room to run.  Sometimes on Saturdays it can get quite crowded for BP, since there’s very few rows.  On days like this however – there’s plenty of room to roam.

I got ball #8 in Phillips’ next round of BP.  He launched a home run that hit half way up the rotunda facade.  Typically, I would just stand and watch the ball, since it was directly down the line.  Since no one was here, I ran over towards where the ball was going to hit – just in case of a crazy bounce.  The ball would take a huge hop off of the rotunda, and fall in Section 133, where it would roll slowly down the steps up against the green wall in the picture below.  I was able to pick it up. 
It was about 5:45, and I had snagged 8 balls already…

However, I would get shut out for the rest of BP.  I made a bad choice on two consecutive groups.  I stayed in left field when there were two powerful lefties peppering the seats with homers.  Then, I went over to center field for the last group, but got shut out there as well.

I decided that my new goal would be to put up double digits.

I got ball #9 in the first inning from Andrew McCutchen.
It was rather funny.  Andrew finished throwing with Brandon Moss and turned to throw the ball into the center field seats.  He stopped and laughed, almost as if he was thinking, “These guys again?”  It was basically us four ballhawks that he sees all the time.  He paused and looked at us, and then threw me the ball in Section 139.  He has probably seen me the least, since I don’t typically stick around for the games.

Speaking of center field, look how unbelievably empty it was?
photo(425).jpgThank you G20 and the Pittsburgh Media for scaring everyone away from Pittsburgh.  And yes, those pictures were actually taken DURING the game!

I would try every inning for another warm up ball from an outfielder so I could record a double digit game.  In the second inning, Nick caught Moss’ warm up ball. 

In the third, I went back to center field, but changed my appearance, taking off my Pirates Tshirt and wearing my black under armor compression shirt.  I also put on some ugly visor I had won after BP.  I was hoping he wouldn’t recognize me and throw me another ball.  No luck. 

In the fourth, Moss threw his ball to an older ballhawk on the right field wall who misplayed it, and the ball bounced into a teenager’s hand. 

In the fifth, I tried again with my altered appearance, but McCutchen threw it to some girl. 

The sixth inning rolled around, and I was the only person that stood up for Moss when he looked for someone to throw it to.  It helped that there were maybe 20 people sitting on the entire right field wall.  After scanning the crowd, he tossed me ball #10.
photo(426).jpgThank you Brandon!

I kept playing for more toss up balls in every inning.  In the ninth, with my altered image, I was able to trick McCutchen into throwing me another one.  I doubt he recognized that I was the same guy who he threw a ball to in the first inning.  He lobbed it up, and I took a few steps to my right and made the catch.  It was ball #11.

After catching each warm up ball, I switched the ball with an extra ball I had brought from home.  In the past, I had been given guff by ushers or non friendly season ticket holders for catching too many outfield warm up balls.  Now, I make sure that I hand the “decoy” balls to a little kid right in front of an usher or supervisors.  I’m hoping they’ll think, “That guy’s alright.”  I’ve got a whole box of them at home.  They are balls given to me by friends who agreed in the past to pay for their tickets to games with the balls they’ve caught.  Those balls obviously aren’t marked and don’t count in my stats.  Their sole purpose is to use to give away.

After getting McCutchen’s warm up ball, smoothing keeping it in my glove, while slipping the decoy ball out of my pocket and tossing it to a kid, I left the outfield with Nick to go to the dugout area.  On our way towards the main concourse we were stopped by a kind usher.  He told me something along the lines about how nice it was that I gave a ball to a kid and offered me a ball.  Of course I took it.  It counts.  An usher is a paid employee of the Pirates, not a fan, and balls given away by ushers, trainers, security guards count.  It was ball #12.  He told me that he had retrieved the ball from center field earlier and that it had gotten soaked when it rained earlier this morning.  The ball was certainly heavy, so I put it in my bag, and will hold off on numbering it until it dries out.

Nick was with me and noted, “You’re only two away now.”

I would need a miracle.

Enter Jayson Nix.

I sat down in the box seats and waited for the game to end.

My view (notice how utterly vacant the outfield seats are.)
The view to my left.
And to my right.
Plenty of room to run.

Nix would foul off a 1-0 pitch from Virgil Vazquez that would land in an aisle of the Lexus Club seats.
As soon as the ball was hit, I was off.    The ball bounced off the concrete, and took a high hop in the air.  I was closing in on the ball and reached out and caught the ball out of the air.  It was my first career foul ball, and my first game ball of 2009. 

Not only that, but it was my 13th ball of the game.

Even more, it was my 200th hit ball snagged of 2009.

Guess what else?  Remember Nick Pelescak?  Guess who hit his first career foul ball which he caught earlier in the season?  Yeah, Laynce Nix.  And who’s PNC Park single ball record was I chasing?  Nick Pelescak’s.  Somehow fate had taken over.

Here’s a shot from Reds TV of where the ball landed.  I’m wearing the black under armor shirt with my hat on backwards:
foul ball STO.jpg
And a shot from FSN Pittsburgh, as I’m reaching out to make the catch:
foul ball fsn.jpg
I just needed to get a ball from Bob Davidson, and I would have my name back in the PNC Park record book, sharing Nick’s record.

The Pirates would go on to lose the game, and I tried my best to get Davidson to toss me a ball.  He looked directly at me, but tossed four balls to other kids. 

I quickly ran over to the Pirates dugout to try and get a ball from someone.

Didn’t happen.

I waited for the Pirates bullpen pitchers to come in.  Only Matt Capps had a ball, and he tossed it to a little kid.

All of the players had exited the field. 

All of the fans had left the stadium. 

A security guard came over and told me I had to leave.  However, I noticed that Herbie Andrade, the bullpen catcher, still hadn’t come in.  I bargained with the security guard to just let me wait for “that player,” and then I would be gone.

Herbie walked slowly in, lugging a huge bag of equipment over one shoulder, and carrying another burdonsome bag in the other. 

The entire stadium was basically empty now, except for me (standing in the front row above the tunnel), and Nick, who was standing a few rows behind me.

Herbie probably wondered, “What the F is wrong with these guys?” 

I felt awkward, so I spoke to him in Spanish.

“Tienes algunas pelotas extras para mi, Herbie?”

He paused and fumbled around with the bags.  Noticing that he was going to give me a ball, I continued, “Muchisimas Gracias.  Eres el hombre.”

He the tossed me ball #14.  I bid him farewell with, “Hasta manana.”  Seriously, Herbie is an awesome guy.

My friend Nick couldn’t believe my luck.  Within 1 inning, from the beginning of the 9th to the end of the game, I had snagged four balls.

I wanted one more shot at snagging a ball.  There was only one place to go.

Outside to the tall grass that was buzzing with insects.

I searched.
I stomped around hoping to step on a ball.
I continued to search.
After about 10 minutes of searching, fearing I would be arrested as a suspected g20 terrorist, and feeling bugs crawling on my legs, I relented.

Did the thought of jumping into the river and swimming 17 feet down, feeling around for a ball, and grabbing it to get 15 for the night cross my mind? Yes.

Did I jump in the river and actually try it?  No.

Nick and I would share the PNC Park record of 14. 

Here’s today’s PNC Park record tying and personal best baseballs:
photo(436).jpgAnd the sweet spots:  (the usher ball is not numbered yet because it is soaked):
And a look at my first career foul ball snagged, and first game ball of 2009:

Game:  14 balls (8 hit, 6 thrown)
Season:  375 balls (200 hit, 112 thrown, 63 device)
Games: 76 games (8 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.93 balls per game
Career:  541 balls
Streak:  91 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  15,980 (couldn’t have been more than 2,000-3,000 that actually showed)
Race for 400 in 2009:  Need 25 in 5 games,  5.0 per game (This could be do-able…)

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Article

There is an article on page A-2 of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about PNC Park’s ballhawks.  Quoted in the story are ballhawk league members Nick Pelescak and myself.  James Saylor, another top ballhawk at PNC Park is also mentioned.  Zack Hample, who has a stranglehold on the top spot in the ballhawk league, also gets a mention.

You can read the article online by clicking HERE.

There are also several pictures of Nick, Jim, and myself in the online version.

9-20-09 PNC Park

Today was a Sunday game, so one never knows what to expect.  Sometimes there will be batting practice, sometimes not.

Since today was a day game following a day game, there would be a full batting practice with both teams hitting.

The Pirates hit first, but the gates aren’t open early to season ticket holders on Sundays.  So, I had to stand and helplessly watch from behind the bullpen.
During this time, I watched as one usher pocketed a ball, while another picked up three and tossed them back on the field. 

After waiting for 30 minutes, 11:30 rolled around, and someone from the security building should’ve come to let us in.  It didn’t happen.

I watched as the staff members sat and played on their phones, as the time ticked away. 
Game:  5 ball (3 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  361 balls (192 hit, 106 thrown, 63 device)
Games: 75 games (8 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.81 balls per game
Career:  527 balls
Streak:  90 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  24,028
Race for 400 in 2009:  Need 39 in 5 games,  7.8 per game (I need a huge day soon…)

9-19-09 PNC Park

For whatever reason, the Pirates had today’s game scheduled for 12:35 PM, on a SATURDAY.  Maybe it had something to do with Pitt having a football game at 6 today, but either way, it cost me a batting practice.

I got to the stadium at 10 AM, and this was the scene:
They were cutting the grass.  In the meantime, there were only three other people there during the first ten minutes of season ticket holder time.  Had there been batting practice, I would’ve been having a banner day.

Since there was nothing going on, I sat down and watched the autograph collectors scamper down to the front row whenever a Pirate player would poke their head out of the dugout.
Game:  1 ball (1 thrown)
Season:  356 balls (189 hit, 105 thrown, 62 device)
Games: 74 games (8 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.81 balls per game
Career:  522 balls
Streak:  89 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  20,379
Race for 400 in 2009:  Need 44 in 6 games,  7.33 per game (I need a huge day soon…)

9-18-09 PNC Park

The Pirates came home for their final homestand of the season.  It is an eleven game homestand that runs through Monday, September 28th.  Of the eleven games, I will only be able to attend 8 of them.  So, if am I to have any shot at 400 balls snagged in 2009, I need to snag 50 balls in 8 games, an average of 6.25 per game.  (However, keep in mind that 4 of the 8 that I can attend are dreaded day games)   I might be able to do this….

I only got one ball during the Pirates portion of batting practice.  As I was checking for Easter eggs near the foul pole, a home run hit by Robinzon Diaz landed ten feet to the right of where I typically stand. 
I was able to run over quickly enough to pick it up off of the ground.  It was ball #1.

Usually, I get a majority of my balls snagged in a day before 5:30.  The first half hour is for season ticket holders only, and its a ghost town.  However, after the Pirates finished hitting at 5:10, the entire first group of Padres hitters were all lefties – meaning no balls would be hit to left field with any authority.

To make matters worse, the pitchers in left field were extra stingy, and didn’t seem to care that I was the only Padres “fan” in attendance.

At 5:30, I ran over to center field.  I ended up catching the FIRST HOME RUN hit by a Padre batter at around 5:45.  They weren’t putting any balls into the seats at all.    Ball #2 was a high fly ball hit by an unknown lefty that I caught about five rows deep in section 140, in center field.

Moments later, I got Sean Gallagher to toss me a ball, but he woefully underthrew the ball, and it hit a chair two rows in front of me.  This guy ran over and snatched the ball out of a chair, as I was climbing over a row to grab it. 
Game:  5 balls (2 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  355 balls (188 hit, 104 thrown, 63 device)
Games: 73 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.86 balls per game
Career:  521 balls
Streak:  88 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  26,178
Race for 400 in 2009:  Need 45 in 7 games,  6.43 per game

9-12-09 Progressive Field

Unfortunately, I missed the entire 3 game series at PNC Park vs the Cubs earlier this week.  Monday it rained, so I stayed home.  Tuesday, I had to coach, and wouldn’t have been able to get to the game until 7.  Wednesday’s game was an afternoon game, and I had to work.

Not wanting to get completely shut out in Week 23, I made the two hour drive to Cleveland today.

I got there early enough so that I would be first in line. 
It would be twenty minutes before anyone else showed up.  While waiting, I ran into a ballhawk named Dennis from New York.  He was on a 10 ballpark tour, and was familiar with other ballhawks such as Zack Hample, District Boy, and Greg Barasch.  We talked up until the gates opened. 

When the gates did open, I ran in to search for Easter Eggs.  Usually there are a bunch, but the Indians didn’t hit early, so there was nothing.  After an exhaustive search, I did find ball #1 several rows back in the section closest to the Indians bullpen.

I then turned my attention the Indians batting practice.
Eventually, the bullpen coaches and a cop got the squirrel to go into the Indians bullpen, and slammed the door shut.  What is it with Cleveland and animal problems (remember those seagulls that cost the Royals a game a couple months ago

I didn’t stay for the game, and left, satisfied with my six snags on the day.

Today’s baseballs:
Sweet spots:

Game:  6 balls (5 hit, 1 thrown)
Season:  350 balls (187 hit, 102 thrown, 62 device)
Games: 72 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.86 balls per game
Career:  516 balls
Streak:  87 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  24,842
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