It was a Friday at Progressive Field, and it was brutally cold, with temps in the mid 40′s. Originally, I had planned to go to Baltimore today and stay overnight and see the Athletics there on Friday and Saturday, but after some consultation with fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak, we decided to go to Cleveland instead as it was the cheaper option.
When the gates opened, I got on the board early thanks to Indians closer Chris Perez. As I was unsuccessfully looking for an easter egg, Perez fielded a ball in center field. I called out to him and he threw me the ball to put me on the board. It had a BP Gas stamp on it, meaning that I can redeem the ball for a gas card by having a representative cross out the stamp.
My second ball of the day was a home run that took a crazy bounce in the front row and shot right at me. It was over my head, so I stabbed at it with my glove and made the catch on the ricochet. It was a reflex type play.
Ball #3 was a home run to center field that bounced in the aisle and took a large hop towards the Progressive car. There wasn’t anyone else around so I scurried up the steps and picked it up.
My fourth ball came from Indians ace Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez finished a side session and walked out of the bullpen. Several people asked him for a ball, including myself, but he ignored everyone. Just as he was about to disappear out of view, he looked back. The other fans had turned their attention back to the field, but I hadn’t, so I held up my glove – and he tossed me his warm up ball for my fourth of the day.
Ball #5 was a ground rule double that I fielded in center field. I just shuffled through an open row and caught it as it bounced off of the warning track.
That was it for the Indians. When the Angels came out, I was expecting a lot of home run balls to be hit to center field, since they are a right handed heavy line up. That really wasn’t the case though. The Angels didn’t hit much of anything to center field that had home run distance.
As BP got underway, I tried to get a ball from a pitcher, but the last place Angels, who have been in turmoil were pretty unfriendly when it came to tossing up baseballs.
After a long drought, I caught a home run on the fly in center field off the bat of who I believe is Mark Trumbo after looking at his batting stance on mlbtv. I caught it here:
Ball #7 was a home run ball that landed in the trees in Heritage Park.
That was just before 6PM. At 6, the whole stadium opened, and I made my way over to left field. An unknown righty hit a home run to my right that I tried to catch, but couldn’t quite get to. In left field there are steep steps and bleachers all over the place, so its difficult to navigate quickly. The ball landed here:
Luckily, it rolled underneath the riser that the seats are on, so I just reached underneath and grabbed it.
I could tell that batting practice was about to end, so I hustled to the Angels dugout, the Angels finished before I got to the dugout, but I got there just in time to yell out ‘DINO!’ towards one of their coaches. It was Dino Ebel, their third base coach. He looked at me and smiled, and then turned away to put a few baseballs away. He then turned back and tossed me ball #9. Luckily I looked over the coaches list when I made my roster. Dino is unmistakeable because he’s rather gaunt. Seems like a cool guy though.
I only needed one more for double digits, but we didn’t hang around, we made the drive back to Pittsburgh with plans on heading to Baltimore the following day.
It was a Wednesday in Cleveland, and there were only 10,552 fans to attend this game. There were maybe 100 people there during batting practice. You’d think it would be a good day.
One from Chris Perez, who’s the friendliest pitcher in the major leagues:
One was a home run by Carlos Santana that was over my head and I nearly caught, except that it tipped off my glove as I jumped for it. No matter, there was no one else around, so I merely picked it up.
And a third ball was a ground rule double that settled in the second row that I beat out a gloveless fan for.
When the Royals came out, I expected to be able to catch a few homers from their lefties and get a few tossups since there was only one other fan in the park wearing Royals gear.
I went over to the bullpen and watched coach Chino Cadahia warm up with Steve Foster. When they were done, I asked Foster for the ball, but he ignored me and put the ball in the ballbag. Chino saw the snub and went to his bag and pulled out a baseball and tossed it to me.
When the Royals pitchers were done throwing, Jose Mijares tossed me ball #5.
The Royals lefties hit 2 home runs the entire BP. None came close to me. To make matters worse, it seemed that most Royals pitchers, except for Bruce Chen were in a terrible mood. The Royals you see, had lost 12 in a row heading into this game, so they weren’t feeling too generous.
By the way, this is what the stands looked like near the end of the Royals BP:
I figured that I could head over to left field or the dugout to try and get a ball, but the Royals cut their BP short, running off the field at 5:51. Fans are restricted to right field only until 6PM on weekdays. So, when the whole stadium opened, the Royals were long gone, and so were all the easter eggs thanks to Cleveland’s staff.
Five baseballs is alright, but I was hoping for a few more based on the low crowd. Oh well. This was game one of two in Cleveland this week…
This was the Pirates first game against the Rockies of the season, as the previous night had been rained out. I was looking forward to this game because 49 year old Jamie Moyer would be pitching for the Rockies, and I had purchased a ticket directly behind the Rockies dugout.
Batting practice got off to a slow start for me. In fact, I didn’t snag anything for the first 20 minutes. After coming up short on three different balls, I ranged to my left on a Michael McKenry home run ball and caught it on the fly here:
It was a milestone ball as it was my #1,600th.
Later, I called out to Evan Meek, who tossed a ball in my direction. Fellow ballhawk Ian Weir, who was two rows in front of me had it tip off of his glove, and it bounced right to me.
Ball #3 was a clean catch on the fly of a Yamaico Navarro homer here:
My fourth ball of the Pirates BP was a ground rule double hit by light hitting infielder Josh Harrison near the foul pole:
That was it for the Pirates BP, as they wrapped things up shortly after 5.
When the Rockies began hitting, the pitchers still were warming up in right field, so there were no players to shag balls. I used this time to make their job a little easier by glove tricking ball #5.
Carlos Gonzalez wandered over and tossed about 9 balls into the stands. I was about to glove trick an easy ball when he began walking towards it. Since he was making an effort to retrieve it, I didn’t use the glove trick, even though I could’ve quickly and easily snagged it and saved him the walk over. CarGo came over, picked the ball up, and handed it to me for ball #6.
Ball #7 was another simple glove trick in left.
When the pitchers finally made their way over, Rex Brothers tossed me ball #8, and motioned to me to give it to a little kid standing a few feet to my left, so I did.
Ball #9 was a foul ball hit by Troy Tulowitzki. He yanked it down the line into the lower seats. It was already like 5:35, and there were no fans over there. No one seemed to notice or care. So I ran over into foul ground and grabbed it.
I was on a hot streak. I had nine balls and Rockies BP was just getting underway. But, weirdly, I didn’t snag anything else during batting practice, even though this was the crowd shortly before 6 PM at the end of BP:
Before the game started, I waited by the bullpen for Jamie Moyer to come out. There, I asked catching Coach Jerry Weinstein to toss up a ball that was sitting in the bullpen, and he obliged for ball #10.
I then watched Jamie Moyer toss 75 mph heaters:
And then watched him do it later, in the game from my seat.
This was my section:
And the view:
I was just a few rows behind where all the players enter the dugout when they run off the field. The location was perfect, because in the third inning, Casey McGehee chopped a ball in front of the plate that Chris Nelson fielded and threw to Todd Helton for the third out. When Helton ran off the field, he spotted me in my bright Rockies jersey and tossed me ball #11.
It had a nice dirt spot on it from where McGehee had pounded it into the ground. I also noticed a little bit of scuffing. Was Moyer doctoring the ball? Its tough to say, but he kept the Pirates off balance all night, pitching 6 innings and giving up 1 run. Not bad for a 49 year old.
The game itself was probably one of the more exciting ones of the year, as the lead exchanged leads several times in the late innings before the Pirates prevailed.
Today was a Sunday, which has become the worst day to attend a baseball game at PNC. Fans aren’t allowed into the stadium until 11:30 AM, and even then, they must remain on the outer outfield concourse aka the Riverwalk until noon. No one can enter the seating bowl before noon.
I stood above the bullpen and watched as the Pirates pitchers warmed up. I watched as an overthrow sailed over Evan Meek’s head and into the seats. However, the ball didn’t last long, as an usher who was sitting in the upper lower seating bowl walked down and pocketed it.
Luckily, when Jason Grilli finished his warm up throws, he looked out at the fans behind the bullpen and made a subtle motion like he would throw the ball up. I raised my glove and then pointed back towards the concourse. There’s a ten foot chain link fence, so he obviously would have to loft it over that to get it to the fans.
I broke back behind the fence and flags and waved my arms. Grilli heaved a long toss towards the bullpen, but it fell short and landed in the bullpen. He luckily had another ball, and he put a little extra on it. It easily cleared the bullpen and all of the fans there, and landed in my glove on the fly as I was way behind everyone else.
At noon, when the gates opened to the main seating bowl, this was the view:
No batting practice. Not a good day.
All of the pitchers had already thrown, so there was no opportunities to get baseballs until the starting pitchers came out to warm up. I picked a spot near the bullpen and watched Erik Bedard warm up:
After he was done, I noticed that Cardinals coach Dyar Miller had a ball. I yelled, “Coach, could you toss that ball up?” He looked at me and threw up a wild overthrow. It ended up bouncing off the back wall, where I raced over and picked it up for ball #2:
I had hoped to get one more ball today to get #1600 out of the way, but it didn’t happen.
Rain would wash out batting practice today, making it a struggle to get baseballs.
However, sometimes in the hobby of ballhawking, you’ll have luck on your side. I had a lot of luck today. Upon entering, I went to the main seating bowl and found ball #1:
They were likely overthrows from the Pirates warm up session before the gates opened.
The Cardinals came out soon after and I was able to get JC Romero to toss me ball #4 when he was done:
And Fernando Salas threw me ball #5:
I decided to get out of the way so that fellow ballhawk Zac Weiss should get a ball or two. I went halfway up into the empty seats to sit down and number my baseballs.
Just when I sat down, about 20 some rows back, I noticed Lance Lynn had finished throwing, so I stood up and help up my glove. He fired a perfect strike at me for ball #6.
Moments later, Mark Rczepzynski randomly fired his ball into the empty seats, so I just had to walk over and pick it up for ball #7.
When Kyle McClellan finished his warm ups, rather than give in to the polite request from the two Cardinals fans for a ball, he turned and fired his warm up ball into the right field seats, which were off limits until 5:30. Since I couldn’t get over there, I went into the upper deck on a scouting mission so I could see down into the right field seats so that I could know exactly where the ball was in case someone else was also going for the same ball. Can you spot it?
At 5:30, I ran up to the exact spot where the ball was waiting for me and snapped a pic. It was ball #8:
At 5:35, I went into the upper deck and found a Mark Rzepczynski ball that he had randomly just thrown into the upper deck.
There was no BP, and yet after about an hour, I had already snagged 9 balls. There wasn’t much action for the next 90 minutes, so I took a pic of the field:
Took a pic of this fan’s Cardinals jersey:
And watched AJ Burnett warm up before his first Pirates start:
I sat for a few innings in right field, but couldn’t snag another baseball. After a few innings, I went home to my family and watched the rest on TV.
By the way, today was fittingly umbrella night.
Here are today’s baseballs:
Game: 9 balls
Season: 53 balls
Career: 1,597 balls
The Pirates returned home to start a six game home stand. Looking at this stretch of 6 games, I expected to put up big numbers. First, all of the games except for Sunday would have 4:30 gate opening times, giving me more opportunities to snag baseballs. Second, the Penguins had a win or go home playoff game, and since seemingly everyone is a Penguins fan, most Pittsburghers were likely to attend that game or watch it on tv. Also, perennial top 3 mygameballs ballhawk Nick Pelescak will not be in attendance as he is attending a wedding out of the country. So, more BP, decreased competition = more balls. That wouldn’t be the case though.
Also, imagine the look on my face when I was driving to work Friday morning and checked the weather for this homestand.
What a rough break. Hopefully the patterns chance. I’m really looking forward to Monday and Tuesday…
Wait, they got worse, now Pittsburgh may get 6 inches of snow Monday.
So, today was important because it was likely the only BP I would get for the entire home stand. There’s no BP Sundays usually, Monday’s game will get snowed/rained out, forcing a double header on Tuesday, which would eliminate BP, and Wednesday is a day game, so likely no BP.
Anyway, this is what happened for the first half hour:
And don’t forget this:
Nothing happened! It was brutally slow. Andrew McCutchen and Rod Barajas, the two best righties for BP homers must’ve hit in the first group before the gates opened. I only had one chance for a home run, off the bat of Michael McKenry, but completely lost it in the sun and didn’t end up close to it. If you come to BP at PNC Park, bring your shades. I had glasses and they still didn’t help:
Bullpen coach Herbie Andrade must’ve felt bad for me, because he graciously threw me a ball as the Pirates ran off the field at the end of their BP at exactly 5:00.
I caught it here.
Then, there was a lull as the Cardinals didn’t start hitting until 5:15-5:20. When they did, I used the glove trick in left field to snag ball #2.
When the rest of the park opened up, I headed over to center field and cleanly caught a Carlos Beltran home run on the fly here:
And a few minutes later caught another home run on the fly in the same row. The only difference is that this time I had to jump to make the catch:
On a side note, most of the Cardinals pitchers were being complete a-holes. I think they like playing the ‘heel,’ or bad guy. Jaime Garcia for example, snagged a ball near the warning track and acted like he was going to toss it up. He went back and forth pointing at two sections in center field to elicit noise so he could decide where to throw the ball. After getting the crowd to be rather noisy he approvingly shook his head yes, then turned and fired the ball in towards the field. On my way back over to left field, I heard one of the ushers mutter, “What a jerk!”
I spent the last 15 minutes of BP in left field. Look how crowded it was at the very end of batting practice:
Anyway, we decided it was too hot for Olivia and left before the first pitch (78 degrees and sunny was the game time weather conditions). We did come away with a few nice shirts though:
Here’s today’s baseballs:
Game: 4 Balls
Season: 44 Balls
Lifetime: 1,588 Balls
It was Sunday and we were back for our second of two games at Nationals Park.
It’s such a pretty stadium:
Wait, not really:
Actually, after talking it over, it was unanimous between myself, Amy, and fellow ballhawk Nick that this is now our least favorite stadium.
At least this was a Sunday game, and there was no giveaway, so it wouldn’t be crowded early. There was just one problem. As we stood in line, we watched the video board which shows a live feed of the field. There was no cage, and no activity at all going on. We stood in line and debated what to do. Finally, Amy asked the head supervisor if there was going to be batting practice, “Yeah, they’ll be out, I don’t know what time, but they’ll be out.” At first I thought he was just making it up and had no clue. But I decided that since we had stayed overnight, it would be a waste just to go home. I took the supervisor at his word, and at 10:58 AM, 2 minutes before the gates opened, bought us tickets.
When we entered the field, there wasnt much action.
The Nationals came out and warmed up, but there was a few ballhawks that joined me in the second deck today, and I was unable to get a ball.
To make matters worse, the Nationals didn’t take batting practice, so after an hour passed, I still had nothing to show for my efforts.
I was able to get ball #1 with an assist from fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak. He said he saw a coach take two balls and toss them into the empty seats in foul territory. So, at noon when the rest of the stadium, we ran over and Nick grabbed the first ball, and after looking around for the second, I spotted it under a seat three rows back. Thanks for the assist Nick.
It was a nice clean ball, so I didn’t number it. I’ve decided to stop numbering Easter Eggs and Glove Trick balls, since they have little to no importance except in my overall numbers. I’ve decided to hang onto them to either get them signed or sell eventually to finance some more trips.
Anyhow, this is the spot where I found ball #1:
The Reds finally started taking BP around noon, and I glove tricked my second ball from the gap in center field.
Before doing so, I looked around and there were no kids around at the time to hand the ball to, and no one was standing over the ball as if to ‘claim’ it. However, as soon as I started lowering my glove, this ballhawk went off and started screaming at the groundscrew who were fifty feet away in the center field service tunnel to get him the ball, in hopes that they would get it before I could:
What’s worse is that he’s a ballhawk, as he had Nationals stuff on and tried to get a ball in the second deck earlier, and then switched to Reds stuff in center field. Luckily, I glove tricked the ball on the first attempt before any staff member could retrieve it. Maybe he was mad because Nick owned him on a toss up in the second deck earlier, and saw Nick and I talking and figured we were friends. I don’t know.
That was it for batting practice. Before leaving I looked in the bullpen and saw that there were nine balls sitting there. Four were super easy glove trick balls directly below the overhang.
However, I didn’t even try. I waited patiently.
Eventually, Ryan Hannigan came out about twenty minutes after BP and tossed every single ball up to fans. I got the second one he tossed up for ball #4 on the day.
We left before the game started as it was a long drive back to Pittsburgh. I only snagged seven ball over the two games, but we still managed to have fun.
Olivia loves baseball trips and checking out the kids playgrounds in the different parks.
Here’s today’s baseballs:
Game: 4 balls
Season: 40 balls
Lifetime: 1584 balls
Today we would head to Washington DC for a Saturday/Sunday trip.
Today’s game would be a 4:05 start, meaning the gates would open at 1:30.
We ended up not making it to Nationals Park until almost 1 PM, and ended up being about 20th in one of the many lines that had formed. Several minutes before the gates opened, this was the scene:
It was chaos. The Nationals were giving away a Stephen Strasburg bobblehead to the first 15,000 fans. In DC, everyone is crazy about Strasburg, so there were 15,000 people that showed up early, making batting practice really tough.
As soon as I got into the stadium, batting practice was just getting underway, so rather than scurrying around in left field looking for balls (there was already about 100 people in there anyhow by the time I got in), I headed straight up to the upper deck in right field. This was my competition:
As a result, I was able to get a trainer to toss up a ball that a Nationals batter hit to the track in right center field.
As a result, I was able to get a trainer to toss up a ball that a Nationals batter hit to the track in right center field.
During batting practice, Nationals park only allows fans in left field, center field, and the upper deck in right field for the first hour. For some odd reason, right field, which is the largest section of outfield seats, is closed off.
It became quite clear rather quickly that I would have to go for toss ups, or glove trick balls.
There were plenty of glove trick balls in the bullpens, but the Nationals are militant like in prohibiting ball retrievers from the bullpens, so I didn’t even try. I did glove trick this ball from the gap in center field for ball #2.
After hauling it in, I turned and handed it to a little boy on my right. It was a classic Nationals training ball.
In the meantime, batting practice was ridiculously crowded. Worse than probably any opening day. There was literally no room to really move and catch any BP home runs:
And the Nationals and Reds didn’t hit too many anyhow.
I went to Progressive Field on Monday, despite an iffy forecast of afternoon showers. When we arrived, it looked as if it could start raining at any moment.
At one point I felt a drop or two, but the rain never materialized, and the Indians took early batting practice, which I watched with Amy, Olivia, and Nick from just outside the Toyota Home Run Porch.
There were several balls that landed in the seats, but the ushers would later pick most of them up later and pocket them for themselves.
Before the gates opened, Nick and I played catch. It was about the fifth consecutive day that I had thrown, and my arm was feeling it. I threw a lot sidearm or 3/4 because my arm was sore.
When the gates opened, I ran in and found nothing.
After a long dry spell to start BP, an Indian hit a ball into the trees at Heritage Park, which I just reached in and grabbed to put me on the board:
My second ball was a clean home run catch here:
And ball #3 was a clean home run catch here on the fly:
which resulted in me being booed because a twelve year old was two rows in front of me, and the ball sailed over his glove by a foot and into mine. I didn’t give him the ball, and he and his dad ended up getting at least four that I saw, since there was no one there.
That was it for the Indians BP. The White Sox BP was pretty bad, as it featured a majority of right handed batters. To make it just a little more difficult, all of the Sox players had pullovers on, so I could only really identify a few of their players such as John Danks and Will Ohman. Plus, a trainer’s son was snagging 85% of the balls in right center, so not a lot of players were snagging flies near the outfield fence for me to put a request in.
I got shut out until 6PM when I found ball #4 in the left field bleachers. Somehow an usher missed it, as it was tucked neatly under a bleacher near a support.
Ball #5 was a disaster. I hate snagging in left field because its so steep. Tyler Flowers, a young catcher with a ton of power hit a home run at me. I started running up the steps in the bleachers, thinking it was way over my head. As I turned to find the ball, the struck me square in the back, bounced around, and rolled down a few rows, where I picked it up. It should’ve been an easy catch for me, but I botched it. I had wanted a Flowers ball, so I guess I should be happy that I at least got one, but still, I feel like I’m off to a rusty start to the 2012 season.
At 6:10, the White Sox ended BP, clearing the field, except for the infielders. In a rare scene, the Sox took infield practice.
It began with the coach hitting balls to the outfielders and working on cutting throws, then it progressed to double plays, etc. It was pretty cool to watch. I stood right behind the dugout and waited.
There were no other White Sox fans around, so I figured I had a good shot to get a ball.
It worked, as Mark Salas tossed me a well worn ball that had been used in infield practice for ball #6.
I got to PNC Park at around 10:45 AM, and the Pirates were already hitting. Such an early start meant that both teams would likely take batting practice. Sunday day games have always been a bit different, because there’s no season ticket holder time. The Riverwalk opens at 11 AM (2.5 hours early), and the bullpen to the lower seating bowl always opens at 11:30 AM. The rest of the gates open at noon. It’s always been done that way.
This Sunday was different.
Security came out at 10:50 AM, right on time and checked bags and unlocked the gates. However, no ticket scanners or gate supervisors showed up.
The gate supervisor showed a little bit before 11:30, and the gates to the Riverwalk opened at 11:30, that’s 2 hours before first pitch.
I went to the Pirates A to Z guide (link) and lifted this little nugget:
GATES OPEN Gates open one and one half hours (1 1/2) prior to game time (Monday through Sunday) and two hours on Opening Day. The Riverwalk will open two (2) hours before weekday (Monday-Friday) games and two and one half hours (2 1/2) prior to weekend (Saturday-Sunday) games.
Somone messed up. Maybe the A to Z guide isn’t current. But since bags were checked at 10:50 AM by security, and the gates unlocked ( then security left for 20 minutes, then came back at 11:30) makes me believe that not everyone is on the same page. Hopefully this gets ironed out because otherwise attending Sunday games aren’t really worth it for ballhawks.
It ended up basically ruining BP. We missed all of the Pirates and almost all of the Phillies BP.
I stood here during the Phillies portion of BP from 11:30-noon.
Since it was the only vantage point to watch BP for a half hour, there were lots of fans standing around in this spot. Three home run balls hit nearby, but I couldn’t get close enough to any of them. One of them I should’ve caught, but I was out of position attempting to reach a ball that was inside the gate with the Cleveland stick. It was out of reach anyhow.
When the park finally opened at noon, I went to center field and found two baseballs. The ushers are being kind and not confiscating all of the balls. Since I got the only two balls in the section, the usher asked me if I could give one to an elderly ballhawk, which I did.
After finding the balls in center field, I searched right field, but found nothing, so I spent the only 10-15 minutes of batting practice that I got to see in left field.
Of course it was super crowded.
Besides the two Easter Eggs, I got nothing else.