Amy and I got to the stadium about an hour early. Before heading into the bleachers, Nick and I caught on the Clemente bridge. Amy was snapping photos as we threw.
We probably caught for about 20 minutes.
Its always a good warm up before going into the stadium and running around for five hours or whatever it may be.
When the gates opened at 4:30, I ran in and found a ball by the bullpen.
Since it was Saturday, the entire park was open for business at 4:30, so I made my way over to foul territory to look for any potential ‘easter eggs.’
Despite having an extra half hour of batting practice today, things were slow. The Pirates batting practice is not nearly as good as last year. Home Runs into the bleachers were few and far between.
I got ball #4 of the day, and #1,150 lifetime off the bat of new Bucco Matt Diaz.
The ball bounced on the cross aisle in the picture below and up into the second deck of bleachers. Several of us ballhawks ran up, and after a short search, I spotted it and grabbed it.
My fifth ball was a home run catch off the bat of Ronny Cedeno. If the catch would’ve occured during the game, it would’ve been ruled a double however. I had to scale two bleachers to get into the front row, and reach low to catch the sinking liner before it bounced off of the left field wall. I was there though in time to make the catch here:
That was it for the Pirates BP.
The Rockies then came out to hit, so I moved over to center field, since they have a good bit of left handed power bats.
While in center field, there were a few glove trick opportunities, but I decided not to try it.
I didn’t get a single ball during the Rockies portion of batting practice. It was one of those days.
When the game started it was packed, so there was virtually no chance at an outfielder’s warm up ball between innings,
so I wandered the concourse for a bit.
I collected a few posters that people didn’t want.
Checked out some memorabilia for sale at a booth.
Some of the baseballs were interesting. There was Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, etc autographed baseballs for sale.
As for the game, I stood here most of the night,
but headed over to left field just in time to miss a Seth Smith home run ball that landed RIGHT where I had been standing. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Wrong place at the wrong time.
One could argue I was again in the wrong place at the wrong time a few innings later. I was hanging out near the Prize Wheel when I noticed a disturbance in the bleachers above my head. Police officers and security guards hustled up the stairs to confront a man who was seated in the front row, aisle seat in Section 236. He’s the bald man:
I did not see the incidents that led up to him being asked to leave, but when I saw the police officer take out his taser, I started filming. Check it out:
The man eventually was escorted down the stairs. A fellow fan tried to high five the man wearing the USA windbreaker, which was thwarted by one of the security guards. So, the man in the USA jacket threw an elbow at him. At this point I was pretty much right on top of everything that was going on. I was also boxed in, as there were railings to my right and left, and concrete tables behind me. I had no where to go except where all the action was taking place. I kept my camera at chest level or so, so as not to draw attention to myself and slowly backed away.
Anyway, after throwing the elbow, the police officer discharged his taser, which appeared ineffective. You can hear the electricity in the video. The USA jacked man seemed to mock the officer. Going ‘ohhh’ when he was tased. That’s when the officer hit him. You can watch the rest of the video and make your own judgements.
It set off a string of USA chants and at least one more arrest that I saw. There were also several other verbal arguments that broke out. Security was everywhere for the last three innings.
Typically, ushers handle disturbing fans. If the fans don’t comply, then PNC Park security is called. If the fan is still belligerent, the cops are brought in. I attended 75 games in 2009, 88 games in 2010, and never have seen anything this escalated.
Anyhow, the video went viral and has over 9,000 hits today on youtube. I was also interviewed by KDKA-TV and WPXI. My interview is on wpxi’s website.
You can watch the story by clicking this link.
Season: 29 balls (10 hit, 6 thrown, 7 device, 6 found)
Games: 5 games
Average: 5.80 balls per game
Career: 1,151 balls
Some Rockies came out to throw along the right field line.
Once the rest of the stadium opened, I went over and snagged my first ball of the day from Franklin Morales. I flashed him my glove after he had finished tossing, and he threw me ball #1.
Ball #2 came from Matt Reynolds. I asked for the ball and he tossed me his warm up ball as he was coming off of the field.
The balls were from the Rockies’ new Spring Training home.
There was no more action until game time. The Pirates didn’t even come out to throw.
Here’s a few pictures from the game: Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies best player:
The crowd, where most of the seats were $1 (you can tell the sections that weren’t a dollar)
Ross Ohlendorf, before exiting the game with a sore shoulder:
Amy and I, who were pretty cold:
The poster given away to all fans:
The shirt given away to all fans:
The Chuck Tanner jersey, to me from a distance looks like an Oakland Athletics Jersey, it makes the 7 appear green since it is surrounded by green. The Pirates should’ve put a black background box around the jersey.
Amy and I left in the 5th inning. The game went 14 innings, and the Pirates won, thanks to 11 1/3 scoreless innings from our bullpen.
Season: 24 balls (8 hit, 6 thrown, 7 device, 3 found)
Games: 4 games
Average: 6.00 balls per game
Career: 1,146 balls
We walked to the stadium and were second in line behind Nick.
Nick and I caught for about 20 minutes on the Roberto Clemente bridge.
Afterwards, Nick and I headed down to the Riverwalk. While there, I was able to see seven balls in the sky heading towards the seats.
Eventually one of the balls bounced out of the stadium. I dove here to snag the ball.
I got a little dirty, but it wasn’t too noticeable.
Being on the board before going into the stadium is never a bad thing.
Upon entering the stadium, I heard Evan Meek call out to me. I thought he said, “Jabs!” but I’m not sure. Anyhow, he came over and shook my hand and asked how the offseason was and if there was anything new going on. He asked if we were doing the Ballhawk League again, and I said yeah.
The Pirates players were wearing pullovers so I wasn’t able to identify all of them. An unidentified righty hit a home run into section 134. The ball settled under a bleacher and I scooped it up for ball #3.
Ball #4 was chased down under the Rotunda. Again, no clue who hit it.
My fifth ball was another righty Pirates batter. I snagged it off of the concrete after it bounced around a bit. There were a few other gloves reaching for the ball, but I came away with it.
I decided to head over to right field and center field at 11:30. It paid off. I found Ball #6, #7, and #8 there.
The Rockies had come out to hit in the meantime.
My ninth ball was glove tricked in left-center field.
Five minutes later, another ball was there.
I went back to that area and glove tricked that one too for ball #11
Ball #12 was tossed to me by Rockies ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. It helped that I had Rockies gear on and asked for the ball in Spanish.
After snagging the ball from Jimenez, I noticed two balls in the ivy. I had forgotten my Cleveland stick, so I went to the Janitors closet and got a squeegee and prodded the ball closer to the fence so I could reach it.
It was in terrible shape.
The Pirates side:
There was a flyover after the National Anthem.
Here was the view from my seat, where I sat for an inning.
It was really crowded in left field, so I went there to read the paper for a bit.
One of the non-baseball highlights was a ‘streaker’ who took to the field in the ninth inning:
He came from the left field stands and made it across the whole field.
Despite the Pirates loss, Opening Day was productive from a ballhawking standpoint.
Season: 22 balls (8 hit, 4 thrown, 7 device, 3 found)
Games: 3 games
Average: 7.33 balls per game
Career: 1,144 balls
The 2010 Season was a fantastic year for me. I broke the single season mygameballs.com record by snagging 544 baseballs, and was voted the Ballhawk of the Year (link) by fellow ballhawks.
The greastest snag of the 2010 baseball season wasn’t any particular baseball though, it was Amy.
She worked at PNC Park and would routinely watch me ballhawk from her position. After batting practice she would come up and chat with me. She told me the first time she saw me was Opening Day 2010, when I went sprinting right by her with Nick close behind. Throughout the year, I used to briefly chat with her after batting practice every game that she worked.
In late August we exchanged phone numbers and things took off from there. By September 21 we were dating, and several weeks later we got our own place together. We have been literally inseperable since.
On October 10, 2010 in Cincinnati, she was there with me, supporting my quest for 544 baseballs:
She went with me to three different Dave Matthews Band concerts. Including the Charlottesville shows. Here were are exploring the mountains of Charlottesville during the day before one of the concerts.
Our baby is due at the beginning of August, and we both can’t wait to welcome our baby into this world. We are both extremely excited! That sonogram is from the end of December. Hopefully I’ll have a new, recent one soon to share.
We were back at Nationals Park for another game today.
Hopefully today would be a bit better day for me.
The weather was expected to be a bit warmer with no chance of rain.
Amy was back in charge of the camera, and did a fantastic job taking lots of pictures.
We were again first in line, so to pass the time, Nick and I played catch.
This time, we played catch on the street, so as not to get yelled at by security.
When the gates opened, we ran in to look for baseballs,
but there were none. I made my way over to center field and spotted a ball below, but there were security guards everywhere down there.
I thought about asking them to toss it up, but they were engaged in a conversation. I went and checked the gaps behind the walls, which were empty. When I came back that ball was gone.
Much like yesterday, my day got off to another really slow start. There was a lot of inactivity and waiting.
All I could do is look at Amy with a “this is going to well” look.
I noticed a few balls were landing in the seats in right field, so I hustled over to try and get in on some of the action.
Amy was right behind me to capture the action.
Once there I set up in the third row.
I didn’t have to wait too long as Laynce Nix launched a home run in my direction. I could tell that the ball was going to be a bit short, so I had to scale the row of seats in front of me to catch the ball just above the man in red’s black glove.
Here I am with my first ball of the day.
I headed over to left field with Nick, but it was too crowded, and I got shut out there despite several home runs landing here and there.
I headed back to right field to stay for a majority of the Braves batting practice.
After changing quickly on the concourse, I made my way to right field.
I began cutting through the second row when I ball appeared out of nowhere. Mike Minor randomly flipped a ball up from the warning track. I reacted and caught the ball for my second of the day. There wasn’t anyone else within a few feet of me, so I figured it really wasn’t intended for anyone in particular. Here I am with Mike Minor below:
Despite several Braves batting, I noticed a ball land in the gap in left center field. I decided to go over and glove trick it immediately.
Here I am setting up the glove trick:
I leaned on the glass railing for a moment and pretended to watch BP so as not to bring attention to myself from the security guards. I then lowered my glove over the ball:
And reeled it in.
That was my third ball of the day.
Upon returning to right field, I noticed another ball in the gap between the stands and scoreboard.
I glove tricked that ball too.
I’m was working with a new rubber band and it was working really well. I snagged both glove trick balls in one try.
The rest of batting practice was just a lot of standing around. You can tell by Nick’s body language how slow things were.
Near the end of batting practice, I went over to left field above the bullpen to scope out the balls in the bullpen.
While there, an unidentified Braves player tossed my ball #5.
Batting practice ended, and there were three balls that were gettable in the bullpen. I knew how security was, so I spoke with the usher in the section, “There’s a ball in the bullpen that I can get with my glove,” I said. “Is it ok if I get it?”
“Alright,” She replied, “Imma let you get it.”
I went to work and got the ball to stick in the glove on the first try. Weirdly, the same lady that just gave me permission, came and started yelling at me. “You can’t do that!”
“You just told me that I could get a ball from the bullpen.”
“No! You have to stop.”
“OK, the ball’s stuck in my glove, should I throw it back onto the field or can I keep it?”
She ignored me. So I stuck it in my pocket and let. It was the sixth one of the day.
That would be it for batting practice.
We left the stadium after BP to head back to Pittsburgh.
We headed back to pictures and Amy was still snapping away.
We left sunny 65 degree weather for dreariness.
Here are the baseballs I snagged today:
And the sweet spots:
Season: 9 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device, 0 found)
Games: 2 games
Average: 4.50 balls per game
Career: 1,131 balls
The 2011 baseball season kicked off for me this weekend in Washington DC. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak, my girlfriend Amy, and I headed down for the weekend.
On the way there, winter gave us hopefully, a goodbye, as we traveled through heavy snow in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The roads were untreated, and we had to keep it at 40 mph. It was rather treacherous.
We grabbed some breakfast at McDonalds in Breezewood:
And continued on I-70 east. Once the dawn arrived, the pictures of the snow turned out better, but trust me – the roads were much worse than this:
We got to Washington a little after 9AM, and shelled out $15 to park near the stadium.
The walk was through a construction zone.
I had my phone handy as I was keeping an eye on the weather. It had rained and snowed for most of the trip to Washington DC, and there was a large percent chance of rain today, but according to the weather sites, it looked like it wouldn’t start until around noon or 1PM.
When we reached the intersection across from the stadium, there was thick cloud cover, but it looked like batting practice would be a go.
We paused in front of Nationals Park for a few obligatory photos:
Amy was the photographer for this trip. We were in Washington for two games and she took over 900 photos. She captured mostly everything.
The walk to the center field gate from home plate was extremely cold and windy. When we got to the left field gate, we peered in to see if the cages were up. It was inconclusive.
Walking along the exterior of Nationals Park, I was looking for any new decorations or improvements.
It is probably the blandest most boring stadium I’ve ever seen from the outside.
When I rounded the corner to head towards the center field gate and the ticket offices, I noticed one change. Do you see it?
There were large mirrored baseballs installed on the outside of the stadium/parking garage.
At the main box office, we purchased the cheapest ticket available: $10 each.
I purchased tickets for today’s game and tomorrow’s game as well.
Then we headed over to the center field gate to stake our claim to the front spot in the line.
After getting in line, I organized the string of my glove and tested out a new rubber band.
We caught for maybe ten minutes before someone from the Nationals staff came out and enforced the no having fun unwritten rule that many staff members at MLB parks abide by.
10:30AM finally came and the gates opened. Here was my first view of a major league baseball field in 2011:
Nick and I were the first ones into the stadium, but I didn’t find any Easter Eggs. Nick found 2.
Batting practice probably didn’t begin for at least 10 minutes until after the gates opened. As the players were still warming up down the right field line.
Amy followed us back and forth between left field and right field for two full days taking lots of great shots. Here’s one of the field from center field:
And here Nick and I are in right field at the very beginning of batting practice. I had checked the gaps behind the outfield walls for baseballs that I could glove trick, but there were none there.
Amy got lots of great action shots of the players too, because batting practice started out pretty bad for me.
I got shut out for at least the first two groups if not three.
What would’ve been my first ball of the day was knocked away from me by the kid in blue who cut a row in front of me and knocked the ball to the right where some other fan grabbed it.
Finally, after a long drought, Rick Ankiel hit a towering blast toward right field.
The ball was hit directly between Nick and I who were both in the same row.
Since Nick had already snagged several, he laid back and allowed me to make the clean catch uncontested. Thanks Nick! It was my first ball of the year and first of the 2011 season. It broke a weird streak. In 2009 both Nick and I got our first ball of the year thrown by Ian Snell. In 2010, we both got our first ball of the year off the bat of Bobby Crosby. The streak ended in 2011 when Nick found his first ball and mine was from Rick Ankiel.
Anyway, back in left field, there was a lot of waiting around during the Nationals batting practice. I was expecting Jayson Werth to put on a show during batting practice. He disappointed, exclusively hitting ball after ball to right field, but did hit two home runs. One of which I caught on the fly, high above my head, fully extended.
Here I am bringing the ball over to Amy to put in my backpack.
That would be all that I would get during the Nationals BP.
I had to stay in the third row because those handrails that you see in the picture severely limit my range. Being boxed in by people is bad, but being boxed in by people and handrails is agitating.
Anyhow, soon Nate McLouth hit a dying line drive right at me. I ran down to the front row and made the catch just above the outfield wall for my third ball of the day.
Here I am inspecting the ball.
The Braves batters put a good number of balls into the seats, but I couldn’t get to any of them. Someone was either in front of me: (they are obstructed in the picture)
Or over my head:
Or literally three feet over my head
Or I would get completely robbed.
Amy took so many pictures! But there were so many near misses.
Every time I came close, I had to navigate around railings or people standing in aisles.
And as a result, I’d be too late.
Near the end of batting practice I spotted three balls in the bullpen. They were perfect for the glove trick.
I rigged up my glove and headed over to double my days total in a matter of one or two minutes.
When I got to the bullpen area, the Braves finished their BP and were walking off the field.
The crowd started to thin out. I needed to work fast.
Just as I began to lower my glove, two ushers swooped in and told me I had to stop.
I ended the day with three baseballs.
Amy and I decided that we didn’t want to stay for the game and we’d rather go back to the hotel room for a little bit and then go explore Washington DC. Nick would stay at the game.
Before heading out, we posed for a picture at Nationals Park:
Our hotel was the Renaissance. It is a $409 a night hotel, but we got it for $116 thanks to Priceline.com
Here I am outside of the hotel:
There was an interesting Chinese themed courtyard too:
After all, we were two blocks from Chinatown.
Here’s a snapshot of the room we received:
After some quality time in the hotel room, we decided to explore the lobby and the surrounding area. Amy was super pumped for free lemon water:
We headed out into the city.
We walked around Chinatown.
You really couldn’t miss it with the giant arched entry way.
The picture with the Chinese man wasn’t planned by the way…
Amy made the Chinatown entrance look better.
There was some cool stuff, such as museums on just about every corner,
Amy was pretty pumped about Auntie Anne’s, but we didn’t stop to share our customary Cinnamon Pretzel.
We came across some really creepy areas,
but overall the area was decent. The cherry blossoms added a nice touch to the city streets.
After walking around for awhile, we decided to head over to the Georgetown area to go find DC Cupcakes, a store that Amy had seen on TLC, which has its own series on that network.
On the way there, we passed a Ben & Jerry’s store, which was spewing bubbles all over the road.
Eventually we came to the store that Amy wanted to visit. It was called Georgetown Cupcake. I guess DC cupcakes sounds better as a show title.
We figured that we would park up the street somewhere and then run in and grab a cupcake just to say that we’d been there.
However, upon rounding the corner, we noticed a line.
That extended as far as the eye could see.
So, that was pretty much out of the question. We headed back through Washington DC to go pick Nick up at Nationals Park. It was almost 5PM.
Here’s some shots that Amy took on the drive back. The Cherry Blossoms were out in full bloom!
We arrived back at the hotel after picking Nick up and unpacked all of our things. We would then go out for dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s and get the worst waiter ever.