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.
Before the gates opened, Zac Weiss, Nick and I played some catch across the street.
When the gates opened, nothing really went my way. After being shut out for a long while, I got Chris Leroux to toss me my first ball of the day.
Ball#3 was a ball that my glove collided with another ballhawk’s glove. He drifted back and we both were about to make the catch when our gloves clanged together. The ball popped out and landed on the bleacher, where I caught it off the bounce with my throwing hand.
Ball #4 was a scrum ball. There was a kid that was also in pursuit of the ball. I picked it up and flipped it to him:
When the rest of the stadium opened, I ran over to center field, as the other ballhawks all ran up to the right field wall and was able to find 2 balls there.
I didn’t get anything during the Phillies portion, and spent most of it in right field.
I headed to Cleveland this morning along with Amy, Olivia, and fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak. We left around 7:45 and after searching for affordable parking, got to the gates around 10:20, over an hour before they were to open.
The game was a 1:05 day game, and Progressive Field only opens 90 minutes open for day games, meaning that if there was batting practice, we’d miss half of it. It was a gamble, but it was worth taking as it’s early in the season.
The plan was to go there, and hope for loads of Easter Eggs that would be left behind by the Indians batters. I peered in and saw that the Indians were indeed hitting.
Nice, there would be Easter Eggs everywhere. Nick and I walked over to the Home Run porch and watched ball after ball land in the right field seats. Unfortunately, there was an usher pretending to wipe off seats who was going around and pocketing them all.
It was important to get on the board early, because we were going to get an abbreviated batting practice with the late gate times, and also there was a huge crowd lined up to get in.
All of the gates opened at 11:30, and I ran in. As I was looking for an Easter Egg, a home run landed a section to my right. I ran over to pick it up, as the only person around was an usher who was acting like he was wiping off seats. Well, the usher sprinted for the ball and grabbed it before I could. Perhaps realizing how over the top it was, he looked at it and then flipped it to me to put me on the board.
I found a second ball in the seats a few rows back before heading over to left field.
I should mention that the visiting Blue Jays were already hitting when the gates opened, so we missed at least half of BP.
I hate Progressive Field’s left field. It’s dangerously steep, and I always do poorly there. After getting shut out for a round, I headed back to right field.
While there, I watched a ball bounce into the trees in Heritage Park. I ran over and found it sitting just under the fence that separates the trees from the monuments.
In the Jays third group, which was all lefties, I caught a home run on the fly cleanly here:
And less than 20 seconds later corralled another home run that bounced off the concrete partition between the outfield wall and front row of seats here:
I failed to get anything else during batting practice. I thought I had a sixth one that I saw go into the trees at Heritage Park, but after a thorough search, I gave up. There were a couple teenagers there looking for the same ball, but none of us found it. After BP, I returned and systematically scanned every inch of the area behind this wall:
Eventually, I found it after BP had ended when I searched a second time. It was right up against the concrete out of view. It was my sixth and final ball of the day.
Amy, Olivia and I got up at 6AM today in order to drive to Baltimore to catch the Orioles home opener. Amy and Olivia had never experienced an Opening Day (Amy always has to work them) so they were both excited.
Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak teamed up with me on this trip, and we all left around 6:50 AM. After a stop, we arrived at the Camden Yards gates at 11:20 AM and were fourth in line.
It was pretty chilly today, so Nick and I played catch for a bit to stay warm while Amy and Olivia snuggled together. At 12 noon, all of the gates opened. Every gate in the park. There would be no season ticket holder only time today.
PNC Park did the same thing yesterday. However, Camden Yards opened their gates three hours early, while PNC Park opened theirs two.
Upon entering, the Orioles players were playing catch along the first base line, and had yet to begin batting practice.
I was able to get Matt Wieters to toss me ball #1 on the day. It helped that there weren’t many other fans around. Fellow ballhawk and Baltimore regular Matt Hersl congratulated me on the first ball of the 2012 season. He told me that ironically, he got the first ball of the 2011 season – from Matt Wieters.
Since I was the first one to get a ball, I decided to move back about 10 rows so the other ballhawks could try their luck. I also thought that maybe a player would see me in my Ripken jersey and long toss me. As I was walking up the stairs I spotted an Easter Egg.
It was only about three rows up, so it likely was an overthrow that the players had while warming up before the gates opened.
Anyhow, I headed out to left field once batting practice got under way. The first Orioles group didn’t display much power, but I did snag a ground rule double here:
It actually tipped off my glove, but I recovered to pick it up in the row in front of me.
As batting practice progressed, left field got more and more crowded, so I spent some time going back and forth between left field and center field.
While in center field I glove tricked ball #4:
and ball #5 from the gap:
I saw ball#5 get bobbled by fans in the front row while I was in left field. So, when I used the glove trick, I offered it to the fans nearby, asking if one of them had dropped it down there. They just smiled and shook their heads no. Nice people.
Near the end of the Orioles BP, I noticed that the Twins all came out to warm up. I made my way from center field to the third base line and was able to get this player to toss me ball #6. After throwing me the ball, he headed straight to third base to take grounders. Can I get some help on who this is?
After snagging the ball, I took a closer look at it, and it was an Orioles Park 20th anniversary commemorative ball. That made my day.
The Twins are very heavily left handed, so I spent their entire batting practice in center field. While there, I glove tricked another ball, after which an Orioles staff member came down to speak with me. He wanted to know what I was doing. I explained it to him and he told me how he thought I was lowering things down onto the field to get signed because of the pen that is attached to my glove. I told him, “I just use it to get the balls out of the gap, I’m not putting it on the field, is that ok?” He responded by telling me, “By all means, you’re more than welcome to do that. Me and a fellow employee we’re just wondering is all.”
Everyone is so nice on Opening Day.
It was my 8th ball of the day, which tied a personal best for me at Camden Yards. I had snagged eight there two other times. Batting practice was about over, so I headed over to the Twins dugout to try and get #9:
It didn’t happen though, but I was still more than happy with 8:
After BP, Amy, Olivia and I made our way to our seats.
Olivia had her own special seat that ‘the Easter Bunny’ brought her:
She really took everything in:
One of the cool things about Opening Day is the ceremonies that precede the game. Here are the Twins lining up on the field:
And the Orioles came out of the bullpen area on a long Orange Carpet:
Here’s a video of the Orioles introductions:
And the National Anthem. You always know you’re in Baltimore when the song reaches the “Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner…” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the Anthem:
It was a great Opening Day. The Orioles ended up winning the game 4-2. This was the view from our seats:
And here are today’s baseballs:
Amy bought me this shirt:
She’s the best!
Game: 8 Balls
Season: 13 Balls
Career: 1,557 Balls
Attendance: 46,773 (I think this may be the largest attended game I’ve ever been at)
Don’t forget about the Shirt giveaway – this Sunday.
Opening Day brings a new hope for all 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Every team starts fresh from scratch. Everyone is tied for first place.
It’s the same with us ballhawks. There’s a website, mygameballs.com, where everyone starts even at zero to begin the season.
Last year on Opening Day, I snagged 13 balls. The season ticket holder time came in handy, as I snagged 8 balls by 11:30. You can read about that day here.
However, the minutes ticked away, and 11:00 came and went. No security guards ever showed to unlock the gates or check bags. Eventually, some guy appeared and talked to the ticket scanners. The message he delivered was that the gate would open at 11:30 AM.
The line to get in had already swelled and split in two directions at the bridge.
Someone in charge had decided that there would be no season ticket holder time today. ALL GATES would open at 11:30 AM, so there would be a mass rush and the bleachers would fill up quickly.
I was really disappointed. To make matters worse, there was a relative of Manny Sanguillen’s who was allowed in the park before everyone else, and he went straight to the left field bleachers, so any balls that were in there, would be long gong.
When the gates opened and I ran in, the Phillies were already in the process of hitting. Noooo!
I ran up into the upper bleachers hoping that maybe there would be an Easter Egg hidden up there. When I did, I noticed a long fly ball head toward the left field wall. Fellow ballhawk Nick Pelescak lined up to make the catch, but it fell short of the wall, hitting at the base of the wall and staying there. I quickly ran down and looked. The ball was directly below me. I quickly used the glove trick and reeled in my first ball of the day to get on the board. The whole glove trick took less than 10 seconds. I lowered it over the ball and pulled it right up. I was relieved because I knew that the day wouldn’t be completely ruined. Whenever any of us are facing a shut out it creates unnecessary anxiety that makes the whole ballhawking experience much less enjoyable.
Anyhow, the left field bleachers filled up fast. I only stayed there for the first group, and then headed over to right field, where it was drastically less crowded. Even though the stadium had been opened for 20 minutes, I still looked for Easter Eggs, and I found one:
The ball was hit yesterday by Garrett Jones. I made a mental note when I watched the ball hit the chain link fence, which basically killed all of the ball’s momentum. I watched from left field as the ball softly disappeared out of sight – it had either fallen behind the fence or in a seat. So, when I went to look, it was in the exact spot that I remembered. Sometimes you’ve got to pay attention to every little detail during BP.
This was my view for most of BP, as I stayed in right field, and tried for toss ups from Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Kyle Kendrick.
I failed to get them to throw me anything, but managed to snag a Laynce Nix homer. The ball was a mammoth fly, that I ran up and over a section to catch, but it was just beyond my reach. Luckily, it landed in a seat and plopped calmly and slowly out the bottom of the seat, where I simply picked it up.
After BP, I went and found my dad, who I attended this game with, and we went to Primanti brothers. The line was pretty long, so while he stood in line, I went to go get a First Pitch program and also to check out the Budweiser Bow Tie Bar, a new area built behind section 101.
Here’s the entrance:
Large fire pit warmers were located around the bar:
The bar has seven flat screen TVs:
And part of it faces the field:
Pretty nice. It displaces the Root Sports station, which moved a section closer toward home plate:
After the quick visit to the Bow Tie Bar, we made our way to our seats to eat our Primanti Brothers sandwiches:
And watch the introductions:
I didn’t try ballhawking- I just stayed in my seat for most of the game. I had a great view:
Near the end of the game, I ventured down to the main level to see Amy, who was working and this was the scene in left field:
Completely packed. The cross aisle was completely filled.
In fact, this was the largest ever crowd to ever take in a game at PNC Park. There were 39,585.
Lots of people came out to support their Buccos today.
Unfortunately, the Pirates laid an egg. They scored 0 runs. The first two batters, Alex Presley and Jose Tabata, had singles against Roy Halladay, and that was it. No other batter got a hitter after those two. Only two other batters reached base, by being hit by pitches. The Phillies won 1-0, as the Pirates start the season 0-1.
The Pirates have the hardest schedule in baseball. Look at their April and May schedule. They don’t play a team that had a losing record in 2011 until they face the Astros in mid May. All of the teams they play at the outset of the season were playoff teams or contenders last year. We just can’t catch a break.
Tomorrow, I’ll be up and early for a road trip and my second Home Opener in as many days.
You may recall, I blogged that the Pirates were having a pre-Opening day workout and batting practice. I blogged about it here.
Initially, I thought that it would be for season ticket holders only, as the email was sent under the guise of ‘SEASON TICKET HOLDER NEWS,’ but alas, it was free and open to the public, so it turned into what I would liken to a Kids Sunday game.
I had to work until 2:35, so I didn’t even get down to the park until sometime after 3.
And check out a few minor changes. Diamond Pizza put a sitting area outside on the concourse beneath the left field GA bleachers.
And a video game station has been installed under the left field bleachers – moved from behind section 101 which is going to be a fancy bar.
When the Pirates started hitting, a ball rolled near the bullpen door, so I went to glove trick it. It was going to be nice to be on the board. However, as soon as I took my glove out, a supervisor raced over and told me that it wasn’t allowed. I have done the glove trick without incident since 2009 at PNC Park, so this was deflating. I snagged 89 balls last year with the glove trick alone, so my stats may take a big hit this year. Later on, I watched as the same supervisor (whom I have never seen before, I should also mention- all of the supervisors from last year where great) raced for and scrummed a ball, which I thought wasn’t right – he gave it away, but still.
I got shut out for a long time, which was frustrating. There were no ushers working today, so lots of fans were standing on bleachers and sitting on seat backs, which is far more dangerous than me lowering my glove 6 feet.
So, overall, the whole thing was a disappointment.
I ended up moving towards the bullpen where it was more empty, and I came up with a Casey McGehee ball. It bounced into the seats and took a generous roll right to me. I just had to pick it up underneath the bleacher as fans from all directions closed in.
I should also mention that I have never seen such aggression from fans in the stands at PNC Park. There were people diving on concrete, diving up the stairs for balls, etc.
Another disappointment was that all of center field and right field was off limits. Boo! So when Pedro Alvarez was up, I just watched helplessly as he peppered the center field seats.
By the way, how much longer does Pedro get before the Pirates ship him out to the minors? His spring was awful. He strikes out 1 out of 3 plate appearances. If Matt Hague hits, I could really see Pedro as the odd man out and Hague could be in the 1B/3B platoon mix rather than being a bench player.
Anyhow, I got another ball from Jeff Karstens near the end of BP. Karstens flipped it to some kids in the front row, who fought over it and totally missed it. The ball bounced to me a few rows back. I picked it up, and gave it to the girl in the pink:
That was a lucky toss up, it was hard to get any players attention during BP because any time they shagged a ball a chorus of ‘HERE HERE HERE HERE’ rang out from the front row.
At 4:40, the Pirates stopped hitting, and the supervisors shooed everyone out of left field, telling the fans that the Phillies had opted for a closed practice. Thanks Charlie Manuel.
Rather than stand on the Riverwalk outside the stadium while the numerous Phillies lefties hit, we left.
A crappy start to the 2012 season for sure. Hopefully things will pick up, next week at this time, I will have attended 8 MLB games if my plans/ambitions hold.
Game: 2 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown)
Season: 2 balls
Games: 1 games
Average: 2.00 per game
Career: 1,546 balls
2012 by stadium:
PNC Park: 2 balls in 1 game (1,157 total in PNC career)
I went to PNC Park yesterday with Amy and Olivia. Amy had an orientation for the 2012 season, and Olivia and I walked around the exterior of the stadium, and took note of what subtle changes we could see. In two days, this place is going to be packed, but today, it was a ghost town.
We began at the corner of Federal Street and General Robinson and walked towards the Clemente bridge. The Pirates main offices are located there on the right:
We stopped at the Center Field gate and peered in, but there wasn’t much to see. It looked like it does on Sunday mornings when there is no BP.
The Clemente Bridge was a sight for sore eyes. Beside proposing to Amy on it on Valentine’s Day, it’s also the place of many pre-game throwing sessions with fellow ballhawks.
Did you notice all of the leaves on the trees? The tulips are in full bloom too.
By the way, while we’re talking about trees… Check out the General Robinson side of PNC Park.
All of those trees, every one, is DEAD. I thought for sure they would be replaced after last year. Am I the only one that has noticed? They are decaying, moldy, and all obviously dead and dried out.
Anyhow, Olivia and I made our way to the left field gate and peered in.
It looks pretty much the same except for a large Rally Pass booth. In 2012, when you spin the prize wheel, you’ll pick your prizes up right there. No more walking over to section 101 to get your prize. That area has been made into a bar. You’ll really notice it when you walk up the stairs from the Clemente Wall area to the main concourse. The open air above your heads on the stairs is now covered by a floor which makes up most of the bar.
Also, the Pirates, replaced an old crappy bland scoreboard that announced upcoming games with a more classy looking ‘Home of the Pirates’ sign above the Center Field / Clemente statue gate:
It was time to go down to the Riverwalk.
Oh wait, it was closed.
Oh well, we went down anyhow.
But the riverwalk really was closed. Fences had been erected in the spot where PNC ballhawks usually do pre-BP ballhawking, waiting for balls to bounce out:
The fences were put in place because the riverwalk was being replaced. New cement slabs were being put in.
We walked back, took in the Clemente bridge from below:
And walked across the Clemente bridge to get a better view of the stadium:
One thing that you may not be able to tell in the picture above is that the tops of all of the trees in the picnic area and along the riverwalk for that matter had been cut off:
This was done undoubtedly to keep the city skyline unobstructed.
We walked back and around to the Mazeroski statue,
and passed the right field garages which were all opened and reeked of smoke.
There had been a fire in the laundry room. Cleaners had washed mop heads and dryer sheets and a fire broke out. There were charred uniforms in the garage. The uniforms were for workers, chefs and the like – I didn’t see any player uniforms that were burned. I learned all of this from a boss who was on his cell phone talking about the insurance, and that they had a $100,000 deductible, and that they were having a fire restoration team come in, yadda yadda yadda.
It was nice to be back at the park after months away.
There’s only 2 more days until Opening Day, and tomorrow there is an Opening Day ‘preview’ batting practice, so I should be snagging my first baseball of the 2012 season sometime tomorrow afternoon. Check back soon! And also, you have until Sunday to win a Justin Morneau shirt!