January 2012

Counting Down to Opening Day

I’ve been rather inactive the past couple months, blogging very sparingly.

Since the 2012 baseball season is just around the corner, I’ve decided to pick up my blogging content to head full steam into the season.  During the baseball season I usually would have around 200-300 readers per day, but that number has fallen drastically in the past couple months as folks have figured out that I’ve stopped blogging regularly.
Well, I’m going to start back up again.

Today is January 21st and from now until opening day, I hope to blog once a day.

This notice will serve as my first in a series of 75.  Yes, there are 75 days until opening day.  How am I going to come up with 75 different entries, well, check back tomorrow and see what I come up with!

1/21/12 – 75 more days until Opening Day.

I’m excited, Amy’s excited, Olivia is excited!

PNC Park Batting Practice

One of the perks that the Pirates offer is the opportunity to take batting practice inside of the PNC Park batting cages.  The Pirates usually have an outdoor field day, where fans take batting practice on the field – I participated in that in September.  In the winter, they invite the fans to take BP in the cages.

I took two rounds of BP of 10 pitches each.  I went 20 for 20 hitting every ball that I faced.

Here’s a video of my second round:

There were two cages, one for grown ups which was set to fast speed, and one that flipped balls up there at about 30 mph for the kids.  I went into the fast one of course.

The only thing I didn’t like was that my follow through kept hitting the net, making it a bit awkward.

After hitting Amy, Olivia and I went up into the hall of fame club to eat some light refreshments.  Daniel McCutchen and Brad Lincoln were there, but I didn’t go up and say anything to them, especially since McCutchen seems to dislike the serious ballhawks.

Olivia was very well behaved and wasn’t phased at all by the crack of the bat.

New Year’s Resolutions

With the New Year upon us, I’ve decided to set a few goals, or resolutions for myself for the upcoming 2012 ballhawking season.

So, here are my resolutions, listed from easiest to accomplish to hardest:

1)  Snag 400 balls
I have snagged at least 400 balls in the past three seasons.  (412 in 2009, 544 in 2010, and 422 in 2011).  According to mygameballs, no ballhawk has ever had four consecutive 400+ seasons.

2)  Snag career ball #2,000
I would need to snag 456 balls in 2012 to achieve this goal.  Two thousand career balls would make me the third ballhawk to reach that plateau behind Zack Hample and John Witt.

3)  Snag 500 balls.
Its only been achieved by two people, Zack Hample in 2008, 2009 and 2011, and myself in 2010.  A lofty goal.

4)  Attend 100 games.
It looks like if I really pushed myself that I could attend 107 games between Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore and Cincinnati.  However, once the dog days of summer roll around, I know I’ll feel like taking some time off before catching a second wind in mid August.  A lot will depend on the weather as we lost about fourteen batting practices last year due to rain at PNC Park.  Most of those times I just went home rather than toil for hours in the rain for a ball or two.

5)  Hike up my career average to 5.00
Currently, I have a career average of 4.80 balls per game.  That’s 1,544 balls in 322 games.  Let’s just say for example that I attend 78 games – the same number that I did in 2011…  I’d need to snag 456 balls in 78 games, or average 5.85 balls per game to bring my career average up to 5.00 even.

6)  Set a new career record in average per game.
In 2010, I averaged 6.18 balls per game.  I’d need to average 6.19 to break that obviously, but that won’t be easy.  2011 brought larger crowds to PNC Park, jamming the already small area in left field.  (We only have six rows to work with!)  Obviously, numbers took a hit.  All of the PNC ballhawks averages tumbled in 2011 except for Zac Weiss.  The only way I’d average more than 6.19 would be for the Pirates to be awful once again, and I don’t see that happening.  Sure, they may not have a winning record, but they’ll at least be respectable.  It’d help if PNC opened their gates at 4:30 like Cleveland, Washington, Cincinnati (bp tour)…

7)  Have fifteen double digit games.
In 2011, I had only six games in which I snagged 10 or more balls.  In 2010 I had 14.  Opening Day 2011 at PNC Park was my best game of the year, where I snagged 13.

8)  Snag 15 balls in a game.
I’ve never done it.  I’ve had some opportunities where I’ve snagged 13 here and there but didn’t hang around for the game and left right after BP (such as Cleveland on 5-13-11 last year).  My career high is 14.  The PNC Park record is 16 – however, I was coaching the day that Nick Pelescak set it and wasn’t there to defend the previous record that he and I shared.

9)  Snag 600 balls in a season.
I’ve never done it before.  Only one other ballhawk ever has – Zack Hample in 2011 when he broke my season record that I had set in 2010.

10)  Set the PNC Park record with 17 in a game.
It would take a perfect storm.  I’d need low attendance, about four easter eggs, four toss ups, four glove tricks, and five hit balls to do it.  It sounds easy, but it won’t be, in fact, I’d list this as the hardest of all goals to achieve, because PNC Park isn’t as easy as people think it is.

So there you have it, a long list of 10 goals.  The last time I set published goals was for the 2010 season, and I reached 3 out of 4 of them.  The only goal I failed to reach that year was 90 games, and I missed it by two.

Last year I decided to not publish and goals, I had them in my mind, but they kept changing throughout the season.  First I wanted to finish first on mygameballs for the second year in a row, but I abandoned that after seeing Zack Hample snag 200+ balls in 25+ games in April.  Then I decided to snag 545 balls, to set a personal high, but that changed too when PNC Park crowds began to swell and ballhawking became doubly as hard.  From there my goals dropped to 500, 450, and then eventually I settled on beating 412, my previous 2nd best effort in 2009.  I ended up finishing with 422 last year.

Of course many of these goals will hinge upon family, finances, and health.  We’ll see what happens.