January 2011

1-28-11 Piratefest Day 1

Today was the first day of a weekend long event at the David L Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh known as ‘Piratefest.’ 
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Piratefest has been going on since the late 1980′s, as I remember going to a Piratefest in Monroeville and getting a baseball signed by Jim Leyland, Bill Landrum, Mike LaVailliere, Randy Kramer, Bobby Bonilla, Jeff King, etc.

The Pirates dedicated this first day to season ticket holders only.  Earlier this month, I received four tickets to this day, plus 2 additional passes that could be used for any of the three days this weekend.  In essence, I was given six tickets.  So, I sold two of the for $25 earlier in the week.  Leaving me two for today, and two that I would use on Sunday.

Upon entering, we stood in line in the MVP zone, which is for season ticket holders only,
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and got autographs from Garrett Jones and Kevin Correia.

I asked Garrett Jones to sign one of the balls from my decoy collection (which is slowly dwindling away.)  Decoy balls are balls I take to games to give away on occasion.
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I didn’t ask Correia to sign anything, that was probably a jerk move, and in retrospect, I should’ve had him sign the Pirates 2011 Calendar that was given away.

Speaking of that Calendar, it was the highlight of Piratefest for me.  The Pirates passed out a bag that included the Piratefest schedule and program along with a full 12 month 12 page Color calendar.

Here’s the front:
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It included coupons, which are pretty useless to me. 
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The $5 off at the Pirates Clubhouse store is only valid on non game days.  Also, the buy one get one free ticket offer doesn’t really help me out since I’m a season ticket holder.

Some of the photos included were
Pedro Alvarez, April,
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Jose Tabata, August
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Andrew McCutchen, October
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Pirate Parrot, December
100_7068.JPGAfter getting Jones to sign, we headed over to the Piratefest stage and watched ‘Minute to Win It’ Pirates Edition.

The game was hosted by PNC Park ballpark host Joe Klimchak and featured contestants trying to complete tasks in less than 60 seconds with every day household items.  For each challenge that a contestant successfully completed in less than 60 seconds, they were awarded a prize and given the option to continue to the next ‘level’ or accept their prize and walk away.

The first two contestants were duds.  The first was a young boy who was about 7 years old and was outmatched by the first game, known as Vacuum. 
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The boy had to transport five M&M’s from one side of the stage to the other using only a straw and his lung capacity to suck an M&M onto the end of the straw and keep it there until dropping it into a bucket at the other side of the stage.  He couldn’t manage to get one M&M to even stay on his straw.

The second contestant we dubbed as ‘Perfume Lady’ because she had so much perfume on that it was overpowering.  We could smell her from four rows away.
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She managed to transport one M&M, which Joe Klimchak decided was ‘good enough,’ then failed miserably at the next task, which was blowing 20 cups off of a table using only a balloon that they could blow up multiple times.

The most successful contestant a fan named Bob, who went through all of the Minute to Win it tasks, before failing to keep three balloons in the air for a minute.

I recorded several of his challenges.
‘Bucket Head’ with Garrett Jones

Another video of the contestant unraveling streamers using only his arms:

There are four other videos that I’ll link instead of embedding in this blog of the fan’s other Minute to Win It Challenges.   Click the links below to go to see them on youtube:
Defying Gravity (keeping three balloons in the air)
Junk In the Trunk (dancing around to empty 8 ping pong balls from a Kleenex box on one’s hips)
Quick Draw (empty a box of Kleenex using only one hand)
Cup Blow? (blow 20 cups off of a table using a balloon – not sure of the name here)

The other entertainment at the Piratefest stage included an ask the Pirates management session:
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It featured Manager Clint Hurdle, General Manager Neal Huntington, and President Frank Coonelly.
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We really didn’t hang around to watch because it was rather packed. 

On the other side of the convention center, Garrett Jones was challenging fans at Guitar Hero.  Yawn.  No interest here. 
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Nearby were the Pirates promotional items for 2011.  There aren’t as many as in years past, but here’s what you can expect in the coming year at PNC Park:

The most useful giveaway, and the only one that I ever keep will be Pirates T-Shirts, given away every Friday.  Here are several of the shirts that you can look forward to in 2011:
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There will be a 1971 Pirates World Series Celebration Canvas Photo Wrap:
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A Neil Walker bobblehead (the only one of 2011) and a Pirates Stars and Stripes Floppy Hat:
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An Andrew McCutchen Action Figurine and a Pirates hat:
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And several of the kids Sunday giveaways:
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The Friday session of Piratefest ended at 10PM, but we ended up leaving around 8, having seen enough. 

Before taking off, I did the strike zone challenge, and threw two balls from about 15 feet away towards a 1 foot by 1 foot strike zone.  One ball in the zone won a PNC Park photo wrap, while two out of two through the zone would win a Pirates T-Shirt.

We’ll be back at Piratefest on Sunday.  An entry will be forthcoming.

1-25-11 Winter Caravan, Tarentum PA

The Pirates’ Winter Caravan, which is a series of stops leading up the Piratefest, rolled into Dick’s Sporting Good in Tarentum PA on Tuesday. 
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Andrew McCutchen, Evan Meek and Ross Ohlendorf were the Pirates’ players in this Caravan Group.

We arrived at 6:05 and got into the already lengthy line.
100_6972.JPGThe players sat down around 6:15 and began signing player cards to give away to fans.
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Around 6:25 or so, Pirates color commentator Bob Walk addressed the crowd.  It was rather bush league that he wasn’t even given a microphone.  This Dick’s Sporting Goods was very under prepared.    Last year at the Dick’s Sporting Goods in Washington, the Pirates were welcomed with music and a video board which was dedicated the Pirates behind the players.  This Dick’s couldn’t even provide a mic.

Here’s some of Bob Walk’s speech from my vantage point in line:

After about an hour or so in line, we finally got up to the table.
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Evan Meek:
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Ross Ohlendorf:
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Andrew McCutchen:
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Evan Meek recognized me immediately from ballhawking and asked me how many baseballs I ended the season with and if I had won the ballhawking league.  He brought Ross Ohlendorf into the conversation also.  Ross asked me who the most graceful shagger during BP was.  I told him that he definitely gives the most effort.  Ross goes all out in BP making full out running catches.

I didn’t talk to Andrew McCutchen.  I had him sign a baseball but that was it.  He seemed like he didn’t really want to be there.  If you watch the below video at 39 seconds, you’ll see him blatantly and impatiently rolling his eyes as he waits for a fan to move from Ohlendorf to him.

That was pretty much it.  We each got three balls signed and then headed off into the mall to walk around for a bit.  The highlight of the rest of the night was watching dogs try to figure out a way around their barrier in the pet store:

and playing with a little dog.

We were tempted to get him, but didn’t.

This would be the only stop for me on the Pirates Winter Caravan.  I’ve been kind of out of the loop about stuff going on this winter and actually went to Uniontown to see the Pirates, but went on the WRONG DAY!  So, we drove for about an hour for nothing.  I got confused because I looked at the schedule about a week before.  It was so embarrassing.  It wasn’t a wasted trip though. 

We went to Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle, one of my favorite parks.
100_6447.JPGThe falls had completely frozen over.
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It was an ice world.

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Of course, much to the dismay of others, I just had to go down to the bottom of the falls, thereby risking falling just to take a couple videos of the falls.

We checked out a couple other parts of the park before calling it a day.

My next baseball related event will be at Piratefest this weekend.  Check back for that.

1-23-11 Cooperstown NY

This weekend, I went to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY.
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Cooperstown is a little over 7 hours from Pittsburgh, so we drove most of the way on Saturday afternoon and stayed overnight in Binghamton NY.

The next day, we braved the 8 degree weather and snow and made our way to Cooperstown.  There were lots of baseball shops lining Main Street on the way to Cooperstown.  Unfortunately, since it was Sunday, most of them were closed.  The Hall of Fame is open 9AM-5PM daily though.

Here I am outside of the Hall of Fame.  (I know, Where’s my coat?!)
100_6482.JPGFrom Ebbets Field:
There was a large portion on this floor for Hank Aaron
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And another section of the third floor was dedicated to Statistics.  It featured all major statistical categories with the all time career record holder and active leaders:
100_6831.JPGHere’s a short video of that section of the Hall.

Also nearby was a display case of a ball from every No-Hitter thrown in the major leagues since 1940. 
100_6840.JPGAnother brief video:

The next exhibit was a display of World Series rings dating back to the early 1900′s.
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It was pretty cool.

Here are two short videos of the rings:

Near the exit of the third floor was a large display of baseball cards that included all different kinds of cards from baseball’s history.  There was another Honus Wagner 1909 card in there.
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Another brief video:

We finished our trip by heading over to the library on the first floor which we missed the first time through.

Here is a view of the Gallery from the library entrance:
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And the courtyard of the hall of fame with some 18 inches of snow or so burying the statues there:
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There wasn’t much in this section. 

There was a small area devoted to movies:
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that had old baseball movie posters
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and displays:
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The library section was a ghost town, everything was closed there.  The Giamatti research center, the museum, the bullpen theater.  All of it.

After several hours it was time to go.  We left a bit before 3PM and got back home around 10.
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It was well worth the trip.  I wouldn’t buy a membership and go all the time, but it’s a must for any baseball fan that has never been there.  I’d say there’s pretty much something for every hardcore baseball fan there.

Coming up next:  Pirates Winter Caravan and Piratefest entries.

Disguising your Baseballs

Some of you may have a space problem when it comes to having too many baseballs.  After snagging 544 in 2010, I have amassed over 1,000 baseballs, and really don’t have any where to put them at. 

I ended up filling up three and a half large garbage cans, but they are an eyesore.

Here’s what I ended up doing with three of the garbage cans:

Step one: 
Place a garbage can filled with baseballs next to your bed, a couch, or chair.
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Step two:
Place plastic bags over the top of the balls in order to create a more flat, even surface.
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Step three:
Place a wooden table top cut out over the balls and bags, making sure it is stable and not wobbly:
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Step four:
Cover the garbage can with fabric:
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Step five:
Place items on the garbage can, thereby creating an end table or night stand.
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My mom gets credit for coming up with this idea.  After my recent divorce I needed a creative way to store the baseballs since I’m in a smaller apartment now rather than a big house.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Years everyone!

I spent New Year’s Eve downtown, where I paused with the Bill Mazeroski statue after parking near PNC Park.
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I then made my way down the Riverwalk where I used to snag a ball every now and then before the gates opened to PNC Park,
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and snapped a picture of a Christmas Tree just inside PNC Park.
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It was then off to dance and Arthur Murray, a dance studio that was giving free lessons.  Despite having no prior ballroom dance experience, this was the highlight of the night for me, as I learned how to foxtrot.  I had an unfair advantage as I was pre-taught everything by my dance partner who has had extensive ballroom dance training.

After that it was off to Le Courdon Bleu Culinary Institute,
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where we enjoyed soup, hot chocolate and a cookie.
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It was then time to wonder around until midnight where we saw fire dancers, fire twirlers, fire eaters,
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glass blowers,
12-31-10 (9).jpghad ice cream prepared for us,
12-31-10 (10).jpglistening to carolers and had our picture taken in a photo booth,
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and watched some festivities downtown ,
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On the way back I snapped a final photo of PNC Park.
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Also, the ultimate Easter Egg baseball is still in place, about 40 feet up in the framework of the Clemente Bridge. 
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It’s been there since July, when I threw a ball poorly and it weirdly rolled up the bridge framework and settled there.  The ball was originally one from Nick Pelescak’s collection.  It may well be there until the next time the bridge gets painted.

As for my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve made some personal ones, but choose to keep them private, only one person knows them – you know who you are.

Snagging wise, I’ll reveal that this will be a down year for me, for a reason I can’t reveal, but I’d like to still snag 300 if its possible.  I’d also like to visit a few new stadiums too.  I’ve targeted some midwest stadiums such as Wrigley Field this year.

Happy New Year!

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