July 2011

$#^#*#$@#*(&$%#@*(%&&*%(#@

The score is tied 4-4.  Light hitting Michael McKenry is at the plate.  Closer Carlos Marmol has been brought into the game.  The count is 0-2.  There are 2 outs.  I am waiting under the left field bleachers with Amy.  One more strike and we can close down the prize wheel and go home.  It had been a long day and I just wanted to go home.  I was all packed up.  My glove was in my bag.  McKenry fouls off like five pitches and then hits a bomb.  Directly at me.  I do not have my glove on.  I move one step around a rail and stand at the bottom of the staircase.  I’m going to have to try to make a barehand catch.  It hits off my left hand which kills most of the balls momentum, glances off the staircase and is gobbled up by a drunk guy.  Had I just had my glove on it would’ve been the easiest clean catch I could’ve ever made.  A ball couldn’t have been thrown from ten feet away any more accurately than McKenry’s 425 ft + bomb.  And I didn’t get it.  Epic failure.

That was his first ******* ever major league home run.  Anyway, since I’m in a ***** mood, here’s the last three days worth of crappy ballhawking summaries.

7-6-11 PNC Park.

I snagged a ball on the river walk as it bounced out before the gates open.   Then the bad luck began.  I had another one bounce off my chest as I tried to knock it down.  I didn’t get that one, as least Nick did.

When the gates opened, the Pirates were finishing up their BP, I ran right past a ball in the front row.  Nick got that one too.  Luckily I found another one 5 rows back.

Oh, and at 5:03, the cage came down.

The Astros didn’t hit because they needed to have a team meeting to talk about how bad they suck.  It worked because the Pirates blew the game.  I watched the game from the club seats, and missed a chance at a foul ball because I picked the wrong row.

7-7-11 Progressive Field.
I had booked a Megabus trip to Cleveland for Amy and I.  We paid $4 for the round trip ($1 each there and back), however it was just one thing after another.
First, we got stopped on Route 30 for fifteen minutes at 10:15 AM while lazy construction workers painted lines.
Second, I stopped at PNC Park to pick up some tickets for Friday’s game.  I wanted 20 tickets.  Why?  Simple – I can get them for $4.93 each.  Why so many?  Easy?  Sell the shirts, make a profit, and use Pirates gift cards from Giant Eagle to take advantage of their fuel perk program.  Well, stopping at PNC was a huge mistake.  The people at the window wouldn’t deal with me and told me I had to go to the front office.  After waiting in the front office for fifteen minutes for someone to come down, I was told only tickets in section 333 were available.  Fine.  No big deal.  All the while, our 11:15 bus departure time was fast approaching.  I was there for about a half hour, and was ultimately told that I couldn’t purchase tickets at my season ticket price with Pirates gift cards.  They would have to be bought at full price.  So, I left empty handed.

The whole Pirates tickets fiasco ruined my parking plan – we were going to park for free at a school and walk over to the bus stop, but since we had 5 minutes until the bus was to leave, we parked at the convention center and ran to the bus stop.

So, what else went wrong?  Oh yeah, the baggage guy noticed that the bus had a slightly broken break light.

The break light still worked, just the cover was broken.

So, we were delayed by thirty five minutes while the bus driver took pictures on his cell phone and talked to his boss.

And, wouldn’t you know we ended up using the same damn bus anyway.

This pushed our arrival to Cleveland back almost an hour, which made us not be able to eat at that nice Mexican restaurant that we ate at last time.  I was so looking forward to that.

We settled for eating fast food in a mall (Subway) and got to the park at 3:30.

What else could go wrong?  How about the security guy not showing up for his job?  Yeah, that’s right.  The guy that opens the gate didn’t show, so the gates didn’t open until about 4:45.  They’re supposed to open at 4:30 – so, we missed the entire group of Travis Hafner, Shin Shoo Choo, Carlos Santana, Grady Sizemore, etc.

Ridiculous.

I managed to find three balls that workers over looked.

Amy noticed another one go into the bushes and alerted me, and I used the Cleveland stick to snag it.

There were a total of three home runs hit during the entire Indians BP.  Two were close to me that should’ve been caught, but big surprise, there were people in my way and I couldn’t get to them in time to be close enough to catch them.

The Blue Jays really sucked during BP.  It didn’t help that all fans had to stay in right field until 6:00 PM.

Surprisingly, a random Blue Jays outfielder threw me a ball, probably because I was the only ‘Jays’ fan there that held up my glove when he looked towards the crowd.

It was just an awful day.  We also almost missed the bus back to Pittsburgh because we stood in line until 7 to spin the prize wheel and both won worthless buy one get one free Duncan Donuts coupons.

7-8-11 PNC Park

Due to a rain shower that moved through a few hours prior to the gates opening, neither team took batting practice, despite the field being in perfect and dry shape.

When the Cubs came out to throw, John Grabow threw me a ball, but Carlos Marmol demanded that I give it away to the girl next to me.  So I did.

Grabow then signed, but I’m not much one for autographs, so I left.

Nothing else happened until I butchered the McKenry home run.   Hadn’t it been for Amy I wouldn’t have even been there anyway.  Once she stops working there, I won’t be staying at any more games.  I’ll be leaving after batting practice.

Statistics
7-6 2 balls (1 hit, 1 found) Attendance 18,910
7-7 5 balls (1 thrown, 1 device, 3 found) Attendance 18,816
7-8 1 ball (1 thrown)  Attendance 37,160
Season:  288 balls (122 hit, 58 thrown, 65 device, 34 found)
Games: 51 games
Average:  5.65 balls per game
Career:  1,410 balls

7-5-11 PNC Park

Amy was working today, so I don’t have any good pictures.

Upon entering the stadium, I found ball #1 about four rows back in left field.  It was good to get on the board early, because the last Pirates group did absolutely nothing.  Zero home runs.

When the Astros came out, I glove tricked my second ball over by the bullpen.

Most of the Astros pitchers seemed really lazy when it came to shagging, so I was hopeful that I could glove trick a few balls today, but a coach named Suba marched all over the field collecting the balls, as if it was his sole and only purpose with the team.

The first Astros group was weak, but the next group featured Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee along with Jason Michaels, probably the Astros three best BP hitters in that order.

After a couple rounds of going opposite field, Hunter Pence started letting loose and hitting some home runs.

In the span of a minute, I caught three balls cleanly, all on the fly, here:

Ball #3 was hit by Pence.  It was basically right at me.  I stood up on the bleacher as I made the catch, just out of habit.  Moments later he hit another home run that was slightly to my left.  I tracked the ball and caught it reaching forward and made the basket catch as several fans turned away, blinded by the sun.

Jason Michaels hopped in the cage and promptly hit a home run which I caught on the fly.  Since there was so much action in such a short amount of time, people started noticing me and asking me questions such as how many that was for me, etc.  No one gave me a hard time though.

During the Astros last group, I caught a ground rule double here:

It was a milestone ball, as it was the 1,400th ball that I’ve snagged.

Moments later I snagged another ground rule double, and then finished things off with a clean catch of yet another home run.

I gave away one of my extra decoy balls to a young boy whose father was asking me for ballhawking tips for his son.

I watched the game from the Club Seats.

I picked a great spot for a foul ball.  The only thing in front of me was a camera well,

and a wide open row to my right.

But as luck would have it not a single ball would be hit within three sections either way of me.

Here are today’s baseballs:

Sweet spots:

Statistics:
Game: 8 balls (6 hit, 1 device, 1 found)
Season:  280 balls (121 hit, 56 thrown, 64 device, 30 found)
Games: 48 games
Average:  5.83 balls per game
Career:  1,402 balls
Attendance: 18,151

7-4-11 PNC Park

Today was the fourth straight sell out game at PNC Park, the first such string of games in the ten year history of the ballpark.  Also, the Pirates decided not to take batting practice today, which left just the Astros.

My first ball of the day was a clean catch on the fly in left field.  I don’t know who hit it, but Amy got a pic of me labeling it after the fact:

There was a bunch of waiting around,

because the Astros as you may know suck.  They are the worst team in baseball.  Apart from Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, there’s not much to look forward to in an Astros BP.

My second ball was a scrum ball that I corralled under a bleacher.  Here I am after grabbing it:

The ball had a distinctive marking.  Do you know who hit it?

Read backwards.  Jason Michaels.  There is a clear MICHAE and beneath that a PRO (from Pro Model on the bat).   This is an ultra rare marking, and I only at least one other one where the player who hit it has his name visible on the ball from the bat.

That’s pretty much it for batting practice.  Things got too crowded, and I couldn’t really move.

After a seemingly short Astros BP, Amy and I left.

We returned downtown later on in the day to watch the fireworks on the North Shore.

Good stuff.

Here are today’s baseballs:

Sweet spots:

Statistics:
Game: 2 balls (2 hit)
Season:  272 balls (115 hit, 56 thrown, 63 device, 29 found)
Games: 47 games
Average:  5.78 balls per game
Career:  1,394 balls
Attendance: 36,942

7-1-11 Nationals Park

Since Amy and I had been in Baltimore the past two days, we decided to attend the Pirates vs Nationals game in Washington DC on our travel day back to Pittsburgh.

We began the day on the pier in Annapolis, where our hotel was located,

and ate lunch at Jimmy John’s, a sandwich shop.  I got a turkey sandwich and was grossed out by the weird alfalfa greens that they put on it.  I’d never had them, and didn’t want to try them.  Gross.

We then went to Washington and Nationals Park.

At the gate, we were first in line, and we ran into Zack Hample, who had made the trip from New York City.

Zack is on a quest to snag 1,000 baseballs in 2011 – and he credited me breaking his record last year (with 544) as a motivational factor in his endeavor.

Upon entering the park, there were no balls to be found as batting practice hadn’t yet begun.  I decided to run over to right field,

but found out that it is now closed off until 5:30, thereby negating an hour of batting practice time there.

I went back to left, and noticed a ball in the bullpen, which I attempted to glove trick, but failed three times as I was reeling it in.  Jordan Zimmerman and Colin Balester watched in amusement.  Zimmerman threw a ball at my glove at one point to mess with me, which actually ended up in a perfect glove trick spot directly below me and to my right.

After failing and having the ball drop and roll away, Zimmerman threw me a ball for my effort.

I then went to work on the ball Zimmerman threw at my glove,

and reeled that one in for ball #2.

After that, I had some bad luck, including one clunk off of my glove, as I unnecessarily jumped to catch it.  (I was terrified it was going to hit Amy, who was two rows behind me.)  Trying to change my luck, even though the Nationals were still batting, I changed into my Pirates gear.
I also met a ballhawk named Alex from New Jersey from mygameballs

and chatted with Zack for a minute or two when there was some down time.

A bit later, I recovered after a few more close calls with this clean catch.

5:30 rolled around, so I ran over to right field.  I ran down to the front row and found Ball #4 in the front row.

I also noticed a ball in the gap in right field, so I glove tricked it, this time quickly and successfully for ball #5.  I then proceeded to get yelled at by an usher named Beni or Benji or something like that.  The same usher later demanded Alex to give away his baseballs because he was getting too many, and actually wasted about three minutes of my time questioning me where he, and that he owed him baseballs.  Pretty ridiculous. Especially because I personally watched him pick up at least three around 5:25 before I went over to right field.

I stayed in right field for the rest of BP.

And caught a Garrett Jones home run on the fly there.

I tried to get several tossups, but got completely ignored by all the Pirates pitchers, especially Daniel Moskos.

After batting practice, we left and actually got back home just as the game was ending.

Here are today’s baseballs:

Sweet spots:

Statistics:
Game: 6 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 2 device, 1 found)
Season:  270 balls (113 hit, 56 thrown, 63 device, 29 found)
Games: 46 games
Average:  5.87 balls per game
Career:  1,392 balls (I numbered all the balls wrong yesterday, so the first ball was 1382, which is the one I skipped.)
Attendance: 22,399

6-30-11 Camden Yards

Today was our last day in

We spent the first half of the day walking around, seeing the nice parts,

and the not so nice.

We spend an hour or so in Barnes and Noble to stay out of the heat.  And then went to Best Buy where we messed around with the organ.

Unfortunately, the guitars were missing strings – I am much better at guitar than piano.

At 4PM we arrived at the park and were first in line, which resulted in me being first to the left field seats.

By the way, shortly before 4, we were allowed into the Ballpark Early to use the bathroom.  I was tempted to stand on Eutaw Street and wait for home run balls, but no one was hitting yet, and I didn’t want to get into trouble so we exited the stadium again (we were told to anyway by the nice worker that let us in) and went and got in line.

Oh, and take notes PNC Park, the workers at Camden Yards are actually ready with the giveaway before the gates open.

Amy was behind me and took a few shots on her way over to the left field seats:

The cage.

I should note that I didn’t find any balls in the seats.  There were some folks that were guests of the ballpark that were just leaving the LF seats as I entered the seating bowl, so I assume they picked up any balls that may have been in there.

My first ball of the day was thrown to me by ex-Pirates pitcher Chris Jakubauskus.

My second ball of the day was a home run hit by Robert Andino.  I caught it cleanly after running down the stairs a few rows and reaching down to my left to make the basket catch here:

The group featuring Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds came up and didn’t hit nearly as many home runs as yesterday, but there still were a few homers here and there.  I caught a Mark Reynolds home run on the fly.  The ball carried on me and I stepped over the seats to get a better angle on the ball and an extra six inches of height and inadvertintly robbed another ballhawk, while stepping on his foot.  I felt a bit clumsy.  I’m so used to hopping up on the bleachers and snagging balls.  Not a big fan of the seats.

My fourth ball was a clean catch of a Tony Cruz home run somewhere in here:

Amy was taking some pics for me, but it was too dangerous to be too close, especially 8 months pregnant.  She took cover near the left field foul pole in the shade.

It was JJ Hardy T-Shirt day at the stadium, so over 28,000 people showed up on a Thursday to take advantage of the promotion.  Things got real crowded after 5:30.

So, I checked on Amy,

and then went over to center field, since there was a group with three Cardinals in it.   Plus, as you can see, it was less crowded there, so I decided that was my the highest percentage area to get another ball or two.

I picked a row and waited.  Can you find me?

The spot paid off as an unidentified Cardinals batter hit a ground rule double that I snagged here:

I went back to LF for Holliday and Berkman, but got shut out.  It was just too crowded.  I finished batting practice in right center field, and nothing happened.  Batting practice then ended.  Before leaving, I spotted something in the gap!

I ran up the stairs to Amy and my backpack to get the ‘Cleveland Stick.’

And proceeded to use it to fish out a brand new

JJ Hardy T-Shirt that someone dropped!

No one claimed it, so finders keepers.

We left right after batting practice and headed to Annapolis, one of Amy’s favorite childhood spots.  We checked into our hotel, and then went down to the water.

It was peaceful there.

We sat on a dock and let our feet hang down and enjoyed our evening together.

Once the sun set, we went into town and bought ice cream cones.

I got mint chocolate chip.

Baltimore turned out to be a great two days, now on to my next game tomorrow…

Today’s baseballs:

Sweet spots:

Statistics:
Game: 5 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown)
Season:  264 balls (111 hit, 55 thrown, 61 device, 28 found)
Games: 45 games
Average:  5.87 balls per game
Career:  1,386 balls (I numbered all the balls wrong – off one.  God.  I’ll make my next one 1382, then skip ahead to 1388.)
Attendance: 28340

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