November 2011

Ballfields of PA : South Fayette

I’m a bit behind on my Ballfields of PA series, but last month I visited South Fayette HS, in hopes of checking out their baseball field.

It looked nice from above:
But my plans were foiled because

it’s not open to the public.  Rather than hopping the fence and risk getting into trouble, I settled on taking a few pictures from the parking lot.

Here’s the dugout:

And a view of a semi-short left field:

Center field:

The home plate area:

Looking in from behind the plate, through the fence:

This is a really nice field, unfortunately it likely doesn’t get much usage.

Ratings:
INCOMPLETE.

Links to other fields that I’ve hit at and reviewed for the Ballparks of PA Series:
Riverfront Park, Boston
Wylie Park, Elizabeth
Peterswood Park, Peters Township
Washington Park, Washington PA
Thomas Jefferson High School Field, Jefferson Hills PA
Clairton Resident Park, Clairton PA
West Field (Homestead Grays), Munhall PA

Other fields to look forward to:  South Allegheny, Dravosburg Field, McKeesport Renzie Park

Ballfields of PA: West Field (Homestead Grays)

Recently, I visited one of the more historical fields that I have ever played on, West Field in Munhall.  The field is located along West Street between Homestead and Munhall.  Many years ago, the Homestead Grays of the Negro League played at this field.  Here is an article from the Post Gazette.

It talks about how a local man served as a bat boy at West Field and rubbed elbows with the likes of Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell.  Pretty interesting stuff.

I had once lived just a mile from this field for five years and never once visited or played on it.  I had only heard bad things about it – most notably that Mark McGwire on steroids would have a tough time hitting a home run here.

Check out the dimensions:

It’s exactly 358 feet to left field.  That’s deep.
It’s about 750 feet to center field.  That’s ridiculous.  And its about 390 feet to right field.

I parked beyond the left field fence and entered through this gate along with Amy and Olivia.

I immediately noticed how ridiculously deep left field was.  And the fence got deeper in a hurry as I looked out to left center field.  It was definitely way over 400 feet to the left field power alley.

Before hitting, I took a few pictures.  Here we have a view looking towards the first base line from left field.  Notice the stands.  They’re ancient.

And a view from behind the pitcher’s mound, which doesn’t even line up correctly with home plate.

As for home plate?  I guess its somewhere under a bunch of muck.

The dugouts looked especially small:

Some more ancient bleachers:

And a view of left field looking from home plate:

Looking out towards center field:

And a panorama of the field:

And another view with large old light towers keeping guard:

I dumped out 20 baseballs and began to hit.


I tried to put everything I had into each swing to have a chance to maybe hit a home run here.

It obviously didn’t happen.  I hit five of the twenty to the base of the wall.  Once of the balls made it out of West Field… but that’s only because it rolled under the fence.

By the way, I hate the Phillies, but am a big Jim Thome fan.  So, in light of his recent return to the Phillies, I pulled out my old Jim Thome shirt for today.

Anyhow, as for a quick review of this field.  I didn’t like anything about the field itself.  It’s in rather poor shape and the dimensions of the field are awful.  The cool thing about the field is that there are actual bleachers behind the plate and along the right field line and the fact that the Homestead Grays once played here.

There’s some nostalgia here,

but I this would be my last choice to play on if I were taking batting practice or playing a round of home run derby.

Goodbye West Field, I probably won’t be back unless I come to watch a high school baseball game here.

Ratings:
Condition:  D-
Dimensions: F
Location/Surrounding Area:  D (there was broken glass everywhere in the lot)
Parking/Access: B
OVERALL:  D

This is the worst rated field I’ve visited so far.  Look for upcoming entries about South Fayette and South Allegheny.
Links to other fields that I’ve hit at and reviewed for the Ballparks of PA Series:
Riverfront Park, Boston
Wylie Park, Elizabeth
Peterswood Park, Peters Township
Washington Park, Washington PA
Thomas Jefferson High School Field, Jefferson Hills PA
Clairton Resident Park, Clairton PA

Pirates 2012 Game Times and Promotions

The Pirates recently sent out a flyer to season ticket holders with game times and promotions for the 2012 season.  The game schedule is more ballhawk friendly than last year in my opinion.  Here’s a month by month breakdown of the year.
Starting with April:

Pretty standard stuff here.  A Thursday opening day at 1:35 just like last year.  The only thing not to like is that April 25th game that I will not be able to attend due to work.  There’s not a lot of home games in April, but May makes up for it:

There are 18 home dates in May.  Luckily, there is only one weekday afternoon game – on May 23rd vs the Mets.  Yes, there’s also that Memorial 1:35 day against the Reds, but I’m off that day, so I’ll be able to go to it.  Additionally, it follows a day game, so there’s likely to be batting practice that day.

On to June:

There’s only 9 home games during the month of June, and they are all against American League teams.  One date that is different than usual is a 4:05 Saturday game against the Tigers.  This is great because it means the game will end around 7 PM – which means there will likely be batting practice the next day.  Since there’s so very few home games during June, expect to see me in Baltimore of Cleveland during the week of the 11th.

July:

July features another 4:05 Saturday game!  That’s good news. It also has a 1:35 July 4th game.  That’s bad for ballhawking because there’s a night game the day before, making batting practice unlikely on that day.  Also, an annoying 12:35 weekday game against the Cubs.  Blah.

August:

August is packed with 17 games.  Most notably, the Pirates did the ballhawks a favor and scheduled August 9th and August 16th games for 4:05 instead of 12:35.  Usually get away days during the week were 12:35 starts.  So, August looks to be a great month.

Finally, September and October are combined here:

There’s 15 dates here, with several afternoon games sprinkled throughout.  Most annoyingly, the final game of the year is on Wednesday October 3rd at 12:35, meaning I likely won’t be able to attend unless I take a personal day.

For those of you that love the Pirates promotions here is a run down of what you can expect to receive at the gates in 2012:
Thu 4/5 – Opening Day, Magnetic Schedule
Sat 4/7 – Fireworks
Sun 4/8 – Kids Pirates Build a Bear Doll
Fri 4/20 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 4/21 – Pirates Umbrella
Sun 4/22 – Earth Day & Kids Recycled Cap
Fri 5/4 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 5/5 – Fireworks
Sun 5/6 – Kids Ceramic Bowl
Fri 5/11 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 5/12 – Joel Hanrahan All Star Bobblehead
Sun 5/13 – Kids Neil Walker Jersey/Mom’s Neil Walker Pink Jersey
Fri 5/25 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 5/26 – Fireworks
Sun 5/27 – Kids Andrew McCutchen Camo Jersey
Fri 6/8 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 6/9 – Post Game Concert
Sun 6/10 – Kids Sunglasses
Fri 6/22 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 6/23 – Replica Cap
Sun 6/24 – Kids Pirates Braided Necklace
Fri 7/6 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 7/7 – Fan Jam featuring Daughtry
Sun 7/8 – Kids Pierogi Inner Tube
Fri 7/20 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 7/21 – Fireworks
Sun 7/22 – Pirates Visor
Fri 8/10 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 8/11 – Skyblast
Sun 8/12 – Kids Back to School Lunch Bag
Fri 8/24 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 8/25 – Fireworks
Sun 8/26 – Pirates Gym Bag
Fri 9/7 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 9/8 – Fireworks
Sun 9/9 – Kids Fathead Jr Wall Decals
Fri 9/28 – Free Shirt Friday
Sat 9/29 – Skyblast / 2013 Magnetic Schedule

There you go.  Your 2012 game times and promotional schedule resource.

Ballfields of PA: Clairton Resident Park

Clairton PA is one of the most economically distressed areas in western Pennsylvania.  Once a thriving steel town, the only thing this town has to boast is its high school football team which usually goes undefeated every year.  Their baseball team?  They usually lose every game, and last year they were 0-14.  Their school district is failing, as the only district to perform worse on the state standardized tests last year was Duquesne (which the state is closing next year).  The median house value is $49,000 -well below the average for the state which is $164,000.  There’s not much to like about Clairton right now – but I did find a nice baseball field there.

Before going to a new field for the first time, I always use google maps to check out its location and see if its a good sized field.  This field looked like a gem on the map – complete with infield grass:

This was the view when we pulled up to the ballfield:

Obviously the field’s best days were in the past, as there were signs of wear everywhere.

However, this field if cleaned up, could be very nice again.  And when I started hitting, it didn’t seem all that bad.  Check out the view from behind home plate:

And a panorama:

Its located in Clairton Resident Park, a place that should’ve been rather populated on such a nice fall day.

However, there wasn’t a soul in the whole park except for Amy, Olivia, and I.

It was rather creepy.  There was complete and utter silence.  I didn’t hear any birds or any wild life either.  It got creepier later.

But as for the field, I was surprised to see exactly how big this field was.  The left field foul pole is 342 feet from home plate!

Center Field is 400 feet:

And right field is 339′.

For perspective, PNC Park is 325′ to left and 399 to dead center.

After shaking my head wondering if I would be able to power one out of here without the power source of a pitched ball, I snapped a picture from behind second base:

And from left field:

I then dumped out 20 baseballs, stretched, and began to hit.

I tried to put everything I had into every swing, but ball after ball kept rolling to or one bouncing the left field fence.

Amy took a bunch of great pictures again, as she always does.

And Olivia just stares at me while I hit.  Its pretty funny.

Near the end of the round I got every last ounce of a ball and sent it deep towards the weeds.

I was sure that it was gone.  Until it hit the very top of the wall and stayed in.  Talk about frustrating.

In the meantime, a creepy truck pulled up, a guy got out, looked at us, and started walking down the left field line towards the foul pole.  I stopped hitting until he was out of range because I didn’t want to accidently pull one and hit him.  He disappeared into the weeds beyond the left field fence, a la the movie Field of Dreams.

He reemerged about five minutes later, the bucket he had been carrying gone.   He walked back along the foul line, hopped in his truck and left.   When I went out to pick up the balls at the left field fence, I saw this.

I guess we weren’t the only people in the park all that time after all.

After hitting, we stopped off at the mall, where I bought a bright orange Cal Ripken jersey shirt for $4.99 along with a Rickie Weeks jersey shirt for the same price.

Ratings:
Condition:  C
Dimensions: C (too big!)
Location/Surrounding Area:  D- (in a bad area)
Parking/Access: B+
OVERALL:  C

I probably won’t ever return to this field, there’s much nicer alternatives.  However, if this field was in a better area, and the left field fence wasn’t so deep, I’d be back in a heartbeat.

Links to other fields that I’ve hit at and reviewed for the Ballparks of PA Series:
Riverfront Park, Boston
Wylie Park, Elizabeth
Peterswood Park, Peters Township
Washington Park, Washington PA
Thomas Jefferson High School Field, Jefferson Hills PA

Ballfields of PA: Thomas Jefferson

Amy and Olivia joined me recently for another trip to a local baseball field.  This time, we visited Thomas Jefferson’s baseball field in Jefferson Hills PA.  The field is hidden, off of a small road behind Jefferson elementary school.

I was concerned at first that it could be locked up and unavailable for public use.

Luckily, it’s open to the public.  The parking lot is up on a small hill overlooking the field.  Here’s the view from our car:

It looked pretty well maintained, despite baseball being out of season for awhile now.  Here’s a few shots from around the field.

Let’s begin with the view from home plate:

The field was built so that the batter has to look directly into the sun.  We were there about an hour before sunset, and it was really bothersome – and I was just throwing the ball up and hitting it.  I suppose it wouldn’t matter if you were playing here in the early afternoon when the sun is higher in the sky, but closer to dusk – bring sunglasses.

I was a fan of the dimensions of this park.  It was 310 feet down the left field line, with about a ten foot high fence the whole way around.

Left center field was 350′ and center field was 365.’  Right field was also 310.  A shot from the left field foul pole looking towards center:

And looking in towards home plate:

The field reminded me of a field that I had played on several times in the past two years with the Pelescak brothers – a softball field located behind a church in South Fayette.  The dimensions, the parking lot up on a hill, the trees behind the fences.  It felt similar.  One difference is that there is a small football practice field behind left field here, so if a home run is hit to left, you’ll be able to retrieve it easily.

After taking a few pictures of the field, I handed the camera off to Amy and Olivia and emptied out a bag of 20 baseballs.  I just tossed them up and hit them, as Amy prefers to hold Olivia rather than putting her in a stroller or carrier.

My swing was badly off today.  I kept hitting line drive after line drive and couldn’t get the ball elevated often.

I had been to the gym the previous day, so my arms still felt like jelly.

Speaking of the gym, never ever take GNC amp amplified wheybolic extreme 60 in Fruit Punch flavor.  It is the most disgusting tasting, foul drink you can imagine.  The after-taste is dreadful.  Chocolate is the only way to go.  I’ve been waiting for the past month to get rid of that crap.   Back to the field…

Amy took great photos as usual.

But I let her down by failing to hit any home runs.

I thought my last swing of the day produced a home run – it was just a question of fair or foul.

It stayed fair, but clanged off the fence.  Oh well.

Ratings:
Condition:  A-
Dimensions: A
Location/Surrounding Area:  B+ (for sun and some weeds along the third base line)
Parking/Access: A
OVERALL:  A-

Maybe being a TJ resident has something to do with it, but I liked it here.

I’m a bit behind on blogging.  I’ll have entries up soon from three fields I recently visited:  Clairton, West Field (Homestead Grays Field) and South Fayette.

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

Ballfields of PA: Washington Park

Recently, I visited a ballfield that I used to play on quite a bit.  When I attended college at Washington & Jefferson, I would often drive to Washington Park to hit some baseballs.  I hadn’t been back to this field since 2003, so since Amy, Olivia and I were in the area – we decided to pay a visit.

Washington Park is a pretty big park, and the baseball field is near the main entrance, behind the tennis courts.

This is the view from behind the left field fence.  Not much had changed here in 8 years except for a newer fence.

Here is a view from behind the pitchers mound:

You can see that there are trees behind the plate and also in foul territory, thereby making it possible to lose your foul balls.  The park is surrounded by a small cliff though, which should help in narrowing down the areas that you’ll have to search.

By the way, have a look at the dugouts.  Meh:

Rather than doing a panorama, I took a picture of each field from home plate.

Looking out towards left field:

To center field:

And to right field:
The field has some decent dimensions.   However, they aren’t marked, so I brought a tape measure to make sure that I could get an accurate reading.

Left Field is 305 feet.  Center field is about 340.  Right field is 305.

It was time to hit and see if I could still take one out of here.  The goal for the day was to smash one off of the scoreboard beyond the left field fence:

I used to do that on occasion back in the day and scare the heck out of tennis players who were standing several feet away.  It makes a loud bang similar to a gunshot.

Amy and Olivia stood nearby and took some great action photos.

I’m not sure if it’s because I have been visiting these parks and hitting more frequently, or because I’ve been hitting the gym on a regular basis – but I was launching balls today.

Ball after ball sailed over the left center field fence.

Here is a video that Amy took of a home run that clears the scoreboard in left field.  If you watch it on full screen, you’ll see it land and basically stay put since the grass was so soft.  I also say, “Scoreboard! Scoreboard!”  Anticipating the loud boom – but the ball cleared it.  Olivia offers some color commentary at the end.  If you have 11 seconds, here you go:

The only balls that didn’t go out today, were line drives that I slightly got on top of.

I ended up taking twenty swings.  Eleven of those swings resulted in home runs being hit over the left field fence.  What a round!

And, by the way, I did hit one of the eleven off of the scoreboard.  On my third to last swing.  Mission accomplished.  Here’s the ball:

Ratings:
Condition:  C
Dimensions: A
Location/Surrounding Area: C+
Parking/Access: A
OVERALL: B-

The field isn’t exactly in a picturesque location, but parking is easy.  You just have to walk a little ways around the tennis courts to the field.  The only way into the field is to walk the whole way down to the dugouts and enter by the on deck circle, as the entire field is encircled by a fence.  I like the dimensions of the field, but it appears that the field isn’t extremely well taken care of.  Granted, its the fall – but even if the grass was well manicured and the infield had been dragged, the field just wouldn’t look that great to me.

By the way, prior to going to Washington Park, Amy took me to the Washington Animal Shelter to volunteer.  We were going to take a dog on a walk.

We went back into the cages and looked at all of the poor homeless dogs.  There was a lot of barking and noise, but Olivia didn’t seem to mind.

Finally, we selected Shadow, a 10 year old German Shepherd whose family had to give her up because they lost their jobs and home.

Here were are taking a walk.

It brought back memories of my two German Shepherds that I had when growing up.

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

Happy Halloween

The baseball season is over, so I’ll use the blog from time to time to blog about non-baseball stuff in the offseason.  With that said, Happy Halloween!

A couple weeks ago, the family went to Schramm’s farm in Penn Trafford area to pick out a pumpkin to carve:
After walking up and down rows and rows of pumpkins,

and analyzing stems, shape, weight, and color, Amy and I chose this one:

A 40 pound pumpkin.  It was perfect, until a mishap that happened shortly after we purchased it, causing the stem to snap off.

Anyhow, Olivia had a front row seat to her first ever pumpkin carving:

Apparently she had grown quite fond of that pumpkin, so when I started to cut into it with a knife,

she couldn’t bare to watch.

After cutting into the pumpkin

and cleaning out all of the guts and seeds

it was time to decide on a carving.

I wanted to do something awesome.  Like this carving of Progressive Field in Cleveland:

Or a Pirates logo or name, like this person did with their team, the Yankees:
Alas, despite taking art in college as one of my elective classes, I just didn’t possess the talent, time, or resources to create a masterpiece.

I had thought about making the Pirates ‘P’ logo, but ran into a stumbling block about how to keep the negative space in the center of the P in place without it falling.  (Come to think of it, I probably could’ve done it.  I would’ve used some large paper clips.  Maybe next year)
After some time of indecision, Olivia became restless and started taunting me to make up my mind.

So, I cut out some eyes, a nose, and a creepy smile and came up with this:

Here it is from a creepier angle:

As for Halloween itself, we stayed inside and handed out candy to the neighborhood kids.  Our total count for kids was 13 for the whole trick or treating session.  Lame.  Amy and I were disappointed.

And, I was handing out unopened packs of 1990 Donruss baseball cards in addition to candy.

When asked if she like Halloween, Olivia just gave me a “What do you think?” look.  Didn’t know how to interpret that.

Anyways, Happy Halloween.

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