October 2011

Iphone 4S

Last weekend I got a long awaited surprise in the mail.  An Iphone 4S.  I ordered one for myself and one for Amy.  I had previously been with AT&T and had been using a now obsolete Iphone 3G.  Yes, I had watched the Iphone 3GS come and go along with the Iphone 4, but I couldn’t wait any longer.  I needed a better phone.

For those of you who may not know, the Iphone 4S comes with Siri.  You basically tell your phone what to do, and it does it.  You can ask it questions, (which it will either answer or look it up for you on google if it doesn’t know) have it set reminders, ask for the weather, have it play a song, have it text someone, have it call someone, etc.  It’s pretty awesome.

Additionally, it will be extra useful for ballhawking during 2012, because rather than scribbling down notes on a wrinkled up roster that occasionally gets lost, I can just tell my phone, “Note.  Ball #1 Clean catch section 136.” and it will make that note.  Also, the camera is way, way better than my old phone, and this phone also has a video camera.

So, I was pretty pumped to get it.

Here it is:

I told you above that the Iphone 4S has a far superior camera.  Check out the difference.

A pic of two baseballs from my collection with the old Iphone 3G, followed by a pic from

the new Iphone 4S!

Snow in October

Just a couple hours after the St Louis Cardinals won the World Series, snow began to fall in the Pittsburgh area.  In October.  October 29th.  This morning, Amy called out to me from downstairs, “Erik, look out the window!”

This is what I saw:

Amy and Olivia and I hopped in the car and went for a ride so Olivia could experience her first ever snow fall.

After driving around for about 30 minutes or so, we stopped and took Olivia outside:

She didn’t quite know what to make of it all.

When we got back home we checked out our back yard.  Here we are on our deck:

Altogether we probably got between 1″-2″ of snow.

10-22-11 Relocation Event, PNC Park

Near the end of the 2011 season, the Pirates, fresh off of a record 19th consecutive losing season, announced that they planned on raising ticket prices for the 2012 season.  Their rationale is that it was necessary to remain competitive against teams that are in a larger market.

The Pirates completely restructured their pricing tiers.  It used to be that the farther a section was from home plate, the cheaper it was.  For example, in 2011 seats in section 301, row A, would’ve cost $9 per game in advance, $11 on the day of the game, and $5 to a season ticket holder.   In 2012, those same seats will cost $16 per game in advance ($7 increase) and $12 for a season ticket holder (another $7 increase).

Season ticket holders could enjoy seats for $5 in any section in 301-308 and 325-333 last year.

Because of the restructuring, now the seats that are in the back of the section will cost less.  Rows S-Y in the upper deck will be the $5 seats for all sections in the upper deck.  Still, not a bad deal.

It’s virtually the same system on the lower level.

When I opened my season ticket invoice, rather than seeing the $798 that I had paid the last five seasons, I saw this:

The seats were DOUBLE what I paid in 2011.  So I didn’t renew.

Until today.

Sensing that many fans didn’t want to pay double to be in their original locations, the Pirates had a season ticket relocation event.  My time to meet with a Pirates representative was 11:00-11:30 AM.  Despite arriving at 11 AM:

and being the hall of fame club at 11:05, Amy, Olivia, and I had to stand around for about a half hour before a representative finally came around to taking us up to the seats.

And when we were shown the seats, the whole thing seemed rushed, because the rep we were with kept getting questioned where he was.

Some seats were color coded with papers taped to them.  Those were available seats that a fan could take the papers off of and turn them in to a rep to claim the seats and buy them for the 2012 season.  I wasn’t a fan, because there weren’t many seats that I liked with red tags (full season) in the area I wanted.

I was told that the red tagged seats were the best available.  I didn’t agree.

The seats were in row S, which was the best available section, but they were in such an area where people would be constantly walking in my line of sight if I were to watch a game (up and down the aisle).

So after sitting in a few seats and weighing the pros and cons of each location, I finally settled on three seats that I liked.  That’s right, I’m getting 3 seats.  Olivia won’t be under 30 inches much longer, so she’ll likely need a ticket at some point either at the end of next season or 2013.

PNC was looking beautiful, even roughly a month after the regular season ended:


Before leaving the seating bowl, the rep offered to take out picture.  Here’s the Jabs family:

Upon returning to the Hall of Fame club, I stood in line to get to a rep at a computer and handed him the sales sheet that had been prepared by the guide and paid for my 2012 tickets in full.

Ballfields of PA: Peterswood Park, Peters Twp.

Amy, Olivia and I were making our way out to Simmons Farm in McMurray PA, when we drove past a baseball field.  Amy said, “There’s a nice baseball field right there.  I used to be in the park all the time when I was a kid.”  So, we had to turn around.

It is located just off of Bebout road in Peters Township.  Here’s a view from above courtesy of google maps:

As you can see, the field is rather large, with a smaller little league field behind the right field wall.  There’s also woods along the first base line, and a hill along the third baseline, so it’s location isn’t ideal because many foul balls will get lost here.

This is the view once we parked.

The fence was maybe 8 feet high, with a yellow ‘line’ on top to help distinguish home run balls.  Nice touch.

Walking in, it the field was clearly well maintained, even in the middle of October.

A view from left towards center:

And from just past third base:

From home plate:

And a panorama:

Everything was kept in tidy, well maintained shape, even the dugouts looked good.

What else would you expect from Peters Twp though?  The average median house value is $334,000 there according to city-data.com

As for the dimensions of the field, left field is somewhat challenging at 315 feet, complete with a nice high foul pole:

Center field is 360:

And right field is only 300, but has about a 16 foot high wall to offset its’ shallowness.

It was time to try out the field.  I had about 15 baseballs with me and got to work.  After hitting a shallow pop up to left field on my first swing, my next send a ball off of the top of the wall on the fly.

Amy got some great shots of my hits, despite juggling a camera and Olivia.  Check it out:

Here’s another great shot.  See the ball?

When all was said and done, I had hit two completely over the fence on the fly, and two off the fence in the air.  A half dozen fell in front of the fence short, but that’s to be expected, as I didn’t have a pitcher to throw to me, thereby supplying more power.

Here I am picking up the second of the two homers I hit:

After that, we got into the car and headed to Simmons Farm.  Altogether, we were at the field maybe 15-20 minutes.

Condition:  A+
Dimensions: A+
Location/Surrounding Area: C
Parking/Access: A+

I love the dimensions of the outfield here.  If I ever built a park, I would probably make it 315 feet to left as well.  It’s challenging to hit a home run, but not impossible.  The tarp in center field as a batter’s eye is a nice touch. The only drawback of this field is it’s poorly situated near woods, so you had better bring lots of baseballs if you’re going to take batting practice here, because you’re likely to lose a few.


Anyway, Olivia was ready to get going.  Here’s her giving me the, “Let’s get going” look.

And finally a couple pictures from Simmons Farm:

Here we are after making it out of a 5 acre corn maze.

Headed across a pumpkin patch:

Walking towards a bon-fire:

Warming our feet by the fire:

Look for my next baseball field visit soon.

Links to other fields that I’ve hit at and reviewed for the Ballparks of PA Series:
Riverfront Park, Boston
Wylie Park, Elizabeth

Ballparks of PA: Boston Riverfront Park

Amy, Olivia and I traveled to Boston earlier this week to check out another baseball field.  No, not that Boston.  A much smaller town in PA that goes by the same name as the city in Massachusetts.

We visited Boston Riverfront Park:

And judging by the google search that I did before coming to this field, I would have a change at a ‘splash’ hit – that is hitting the ball into a body of water, like at PNC Park (Allegheny River) or AT&T Park (McCovey Cove).

Check it out:

When we pulled up, this was the scene from the parking lot:

Additionally, besides having a river running behind the left field fence, there is a bridge behind right field – a really cool setting for an amateur field.

This was the view looking in from right field:

Not too bad.   When I put on my batting gloves, I was eying the left field fence.  I wanted to put one in the river.

I did a quick walk from home plate to the left field foul pole and estimated it to be 290 feet.  After checking google maps when I got home and comparing it to the scale that they have on the map, it checked out.  Its slightly less than 300 ft down the line.

So, when my first swing was mis-hit, meaning I didn’t get nearly all of it, but still hit it off of the wall, I shifted my aim to left center field and tried to hit it off of the lone tree out there.

Amy came along and took some pictures.  She stood in the third base coaches box and took this picture:

And this one:

I had brought 15 baseballs, and took 15 swings.  My seventh swing marked the first home run of the day.  A nice shot that cracked and snapped the branches of the tree in left center field.

Although Amy has pitched to me in the past, and is a decent BP pitcher, its just not safe with a baby.  I’ve been throwing balls up and hitting them since I was about 13 – always playing a game of home run derby against myself at the old Carbon Field #3 near my boyhood home.

Anyhow, on my second to last swing,

I hit a shot to left field that cleared the fence and disappeared for a split second out of view.  It then quickly shot up high in the air as it bounced off of the concrete parking lot out there.  There was no doubt in my mind that it was probably in the river.

I took my last swing and ran out to the river to see if I could recover the ball. As the PNC ballhawks will attest, major league baseballs on float for 90 seconds – 2 minutes tops before sinking.  I’ve seen it happen numerous times at PNC Park in the Allegheny, especially before the gates open and Pedro Alvarez is hitting shots that bounce into the Allegheny.

Anyhow, when I ran down there, my ball was indeed in the river.  And luckily, it looked reachable.

I was able to recover it by climbing down the river bank:

And carefully reaching down to grab it, despite sinking about four inches in thick soft river mud.

Here’s the parking lot behind the left field fence.  Luckily, there was only some random crappy car there that looked deserted.
And here’s another picture of the river:

And here’s my first career splash-down hit.

After collecting the two home runs balls, I collected the other balls from left center field that didn’t clear the fence:

And Amy took a photo of the really awkward center field.  Usually center field is the deepest part of a ballpark, but here in Boston, the fence comes way in to a point.

It’s still deeper than left field, but very asymmetrical.  I walked off center field and its approximately 330.  The right field power alley is by far the largest field if you look at the aerial view from google maps.

The field has its quirks, but could be really fun to take BP at or hold a home run derby competition.  Olivia agrees.

And if you’re into riding bikes, which we really aren’t [Remember Ohiopyle Amy ;)  ? ]  you could ride the Yough trail:

Anyhow, before leaving we went up to the Boston Bridge to get a few more pics.

The condition of the bridge left much to be desired,

but we got some good pics of the field from the vantage point:

Check out that asymmetrical fence!

And here’s the area behind the left field wall again:

After a few pics, we called it a night and headed home.  We would visit another local ballpark the next day…

Condition:  B
Dimensions: B- (for being a little too short to left)
Location/Surrounding Area: A
Parking/Access: A

One could have some fun here in a home run derby – maybe crediting an extra home run for every splash down hit.  Drawbacks are that too many balls could end up lost if you’re a power hitter – and if there’s a few cars in the parking lot beyond the fence – it could lead to a problem if you hit a car.  Also, the outfield fence is too low.

Links to other fields that I’ve hit at and reviewed for the Ballparks of PA Series:
Wylie Park, Elizabeth

Ballfields of PA – Wylie Park, Elizabeth PA

With the 2011 ballhawking season basically over for me, I have nothing to blog about, so I decided to do a series of entries about ballfields around western PA.

The first of which is Wylie Park in Elizabeth PA.

Wylie Park is the home of the Elizabeth Forward High School baseball team, and wasn’t that hard to find, its just off of Route 51 in a sort of run down neighborhood.

When Amy, Olivia and I pulled up to the field, I noticed that it appeared to be completely surrounded by a fence, and I thought that we might not get access to the field, but there was a fence that was open, so in we went.

The field obviously hadn’t been used in awhile, since baseball season has been over for several months.  The grass was high.

This is the view of the field from right field:

Looking across the outfield from right field towards center field:

Behind the outfield fence was a run down playground that was overgrown, an empty basketball court, and a dilapidated tennis court.

As I approached the infield, things looked a little better.  A baseball field is a baseball field after all.  The fencing looked like it was in good shape, and the backstop had an overhang so that foul balls wouldn’t get repeatedly lost.

The dugouts looked a bit crappy:

And then there was this:

And overgrown bleachers:

I brought a bag of baseballs and decided to step into the box and take about 15 swings.  This was the view looking out to left field:

And center field:

There is a six foot high fence in left field and a twelve foot high fence from left center all the way around to right field.  Unfortunately, with my 15 swings, I failed to go yard, but it’s been awhile since I hit and I was at the gym earlier pushing heavy weight which really seemed to slow my swing down.

So, the field does present somewhat of a challenge to hit a home run.

The dimensions are 308 feet to left field,

a deep 422 feet to center field,

and 316 to right field.

In summary, the field is not in great condition, but would be a plausible place to take batting practice at or hold a home run derby.  Some fields are ridiculously hard to hit home runs, and others are way to easy, and I would rate this in the middle.

My ratings:
Condition:  D
Dimensions: A-
Location/Surrounding Area: C
Parking/Access: B (park on street by right field fence)

Check back for more reviews of local baseball fields as Amy, Olivia and I come to a field near you…