Results tagged ‘ Ballhawk ’

5-2-09 PNC Park

100_1095.jpgToday was fireworks and Polish night, so I wasn’t sure how crowded it would be.  Luckily, only 22,891 came out, so batting practice was fairly sparse for a Saturday.

I got into line at 3:30 (an hour before the gates were to open), and was the 8th person in the stadium.  I was the third one into the bleachers.  There were 2 easter eggs, but another ballhawk got them first.

About 10 minutes or so passed with no action.  I noticed a ball roll directly to the fence where the stands jut out towards the foul line in left field.  I decided to vacate my spot and go grab the ball.  I ran up the escalator to the main concourse, and then down the stairs and reached over the fence and grabbed ball #1.  Then, I immediately went back to the bleachers.  I snapped this picture when I returned to the bleacher area to illustrate where the ball was.  (The small yellow X)
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STATISTICS:
Game:  6 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 64 balls (26 hit, 31 thrown, 7 device)
Games:  13 games (11 with BP, 2 without)
Average:  4.92 balls per game
Career:  230 balls
Average:  22,891

4-20-09 PNC Park

Today wasn’t looking good.  It had rained continuously throughout the day.  When my wife and I left for the ballpark at 4:25 PM, it was still pouring.  We went anyway.

For the first half hour, nothing was going on in the stadium.  The tarp was on the field, and there were no players to be seen.  There was a random ball sitting in the middle of center field, but it would’ve been impossible to reach with the glove trick.

At 5:30, the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch and toss.  The rain had relented a bit.  I went down and lined up behind Jeff Karstens, hoping for an overthrown.  It didn’t happen.  I did manage to get Craig Hansen’s warm up ball.  It was ball #1.

The Pirates left the field, and once again, nothing was happening.  We went over to right field to await the Marlins to come out and catch.
100_0875.jpgThe weather still wasn’t looking good.  Water was starting to pond on the warning track.
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Not too bad, I guess.

STATISTICS:
Game:  2 balls  (2 thrown)
Season :  31 balls (13 hit, 12 thrown, 6 device)
Games:  8 games (6 with BP, 2 without)
Average:  3.88 balls per game
Career:  197 balls
Attendance:  8,790

4-15-09 PNC Park

I was faced with the decision today of attending the Pirate game or skipping it.  This is the weather forecast as of 1PM. 

weather.jpgBatting practice would surely be canceled.  I may get shut out for the first time since Sunday August 31st, 2008.  I decided that since I am now in a competitive ballhawk league, that I had to go and at least try.  I knew that my average balls per game would probably take a hit.

I went with my wife Holly and we arrived at the gates around 4:40 PM.  The gates open during the week at 5 PM.  Walking past the Stargell statue, I peered into the park and saw that sure enough, the tarp was covering the field.  There was no batting practice today.

I entered the bleacher section at 5 PM and looked around for some Easter Eggs.  There was nothing to be found, since it had been raining and drizzling all day long.  Around 5:20, the Pirates pitchers came out to stretch.  I followed a group of 6 other ballhawks up the escalator to go into the seating bowl to possibly catch an overthrow.  Usually there are security guards that don’t permit entrance until 5:30, but there were none around.  When we got to the front row right behind Matt Capps, Tyler Yates and company, a field security guard walked over and told us to go back to left field.  Even though it was 5:24, he wouldn’t let us stay.

Meanwhile, the Astros pitchers came out to stretch.  I decided that I might have a better chance getting a ball from them since there was a couple little kids and four high school kids watching the Pirates pitchers.

I decided to take the chance.  I took off my Pirates sweatshirt exposing my black Astros shirt and donned my Houston hat and headed over to right field.

I lined myself up behind Russ Ortiz and Geoff Geary.  I was the only one in the stands behind the Astros pitchers.  I had 20 feet to my left and right without a soul in sight.    There were 4 balls in play, as 8 pitchers were throwing.   Jeff Fulchino finished his tosses and had a ball.  I asked him for the ball and he made eye contact with me.  He didn’t say anything, but went and talked to a fellow pitcher.   A couple minutes later, Fulchino tossed me ball #1

There were still 3 balls in play.  Wesley Wright finished his tosses and gave his ball to a fan a little further down the line.  It was a 10 year old kid wearing Pirate gear.  Tim Byrdak was joking around and told the kid that he wasn’t done with the ball yet and to toss it back.  The kid just stared at Byrdak confused and horrified.  Byrdak urged him to toss the ball back.  The kid then turned and ran away.  It was rather amusing.

Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins finished their tossing next.  I asked for the ball.  Again, I was the only fan with Astros gear on, so Valverde looked at me and tossed me ball #2.  There was one ball left and it was being used by Geoff Geary and Russ Ortiz.  I snapped a picture on my cell phone.
0415091753.jpgThe Pirates got some good relief work from their bullpen and ended up losing the game 4-1.  Adam LaRoche accounted for the Pirates only run with a Home Run in the 9th inning.  It was too little too late. 

I tried to get a ball at the dugout after the game from an umpire and the Pirates pitchers, but failed to do so. 

As I was ready to leave, I decided to walk around for a minute and collect a ticket stub or two.  I notice in Section 124, about four rows back, a circular white object laying on the ground.  Seriously?  Could this be a ball?  Since I waited for the bullpen coach to come in, it took some time and the stadium was basically vacant.  I looked closer and sure enough, it was a major league baseball.  How did this get here?  Was it some little kid who didn’t really even care about it?  Did someone catch it and it trickled out of their glove during the game?  It was weird.  I looked around and didn’t see anyone looking for a ball.  There were only a half dozen fans left, waiting down at the dugout.  So, I picked the ball up, making it ball #4 of the day.    Usually, Easter Eggs that are found count as hit balls, but since there was no batting practice on this day, and it didn’t look like a game ball, I decided it was probably someone’s warm up ball.  I’ll chalk it up under the thrown category.

I’m glad I went to the game despite the rain. 

Here’s a look at today’s results: ( the media guide was free for being a season ticket holder.  The bobblehead was won at a spin-a-wheel g
ame where they are giving away all of the left over promotions from 2008)
100_0757.jpgAnd a closer look at those Astros balls.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  4 Balls (4 thrown)
Season: 17 Balls (7 hit, 8 thrown, 2 device)
Games:  4 Games (3 with BP, 1 without)
Average:  4.25 Balls per Game
Career:  183 Balls
Hit List:  183 ties me with former Pirate Chris Duffy for #3769  on the all time hit list.
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4-12-09 Great American Ball Park

Happy Easter everyone! 

My friend Joe and I went to Great American Ball Park today. 
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It was an afternoon game, so I was worried that batting practice would be canceled.  We waited in line for about 10 minutes to get in.  At 11:40, when the gates opened, I rushed to left field.  The Pirates were taking batting practice!

I was the first one there, but the stadium ushers must have picked up all of the Easter Eggs, because there were none to be found.  Yesterday’s starter Paul Maholm was alone in left field.  I shouted to him to congratulate him on his great start yesterday.  I then asked for a ball.  He looked up and threw me a ball.  His aim was off and it was wide and to my left.  It tipped off my glove and landed a row behind me.  Luckily, there was still no one around, so I turned around and picked it up.  It was ball #1.  I asked Matt Capps, John Grabow, and Tyler Yates for balls in left center field, but was ignored.  I didn’t feel like pestering them, so I found an open aisle about 6 rows back that wasn’t being blocked by those long railings I mentioned in Friday’s entry.

Freddy Sanchez soon launched a deep fly ball to left.  It was right at me, in the center of the section.  However, it was sailing over my head.  I hate it when this happens.  I don’t have latitudinal range, and get stuck.  It happens often at PNC Park.  The ball landed about 5 rows back, so I had to climb over the chairs to beat some Reds fan there by a split second.  It was ball #2.

Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss’ group was coming up next, so we moved over to right field. 
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STATISTICS:
Game: 5 balls  (3 hit, 2 thrown)
Season:  8 balls  (5 hit, 3 thrown)
Average:  4.0 balls/game (8 balls/2 games)
Career: 174 balls

Hit List:  174 hits ties Ozzie Virgil for #3855 all time.
Attendance: 12,876 (30.6% full)
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3-30-09 McKechnie Field, Bradenton FL

My dad and I headed to our last Spring Training game on this short trip: Reds vs Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton FL. 
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We got to the field around 10:20 AM and the Pirates were already half way through their round of batting practice.  Luckily, we were once again able to access the spot behind the left field fence.  I was told by a guy on Saturday that during the week the area behind the fence was off limits.  He was wrong.
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FINAL SPRING TRAINING STATISTICS:
Total Balls: 9
Games Attended: 3
Average: 3.0
Hit: 6
Thrown: 2
Device: 1
Total Career Spring Training Balls: 9

Note: I do not count these balls in my totals.  They will be tracked in a separate category and I will not count them in my career ball totals.

3-28-09 McKechnie Field, Bradenton FL

My dad and I left our hotel at 9:50 this morning to see the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton FL.  The plan was to get there early and attempt to snag some home run balls in batting practice.  Even though McKechnie Field doesn’t have an outfield seating area, there’s a narrow walkway behind the left field fence.  I was planning on standing on this sidewalk and chasing down any home runs that came may way. 

If you notice in the picture below, the wind was blowing straight out to left between 30-50mph.  Little particles kept flying in my eyes and I was kicking myself for not bringing my sunglasses.
100_0281.jpgI soon abandoned my plan to roam the walkway pictured above.  It was too narrow, and I had absolutely no chance of seeing home run balls coming.    I moved a bit more toward left center where there was a parking lot for an adjacent school.  Competition was slim, as you can see in the picture below.  My dad went back to the left field foul pole to watch some batting practice.  I heard him yell, “ERIK!”  Then I heard some crackling branches above my head.  Ball #1 dropped out of the trees and I quickly pounced on it.  Another minute later my dad yelled my name again, and another ball crashed through the trees and I fielded it was it bounced off a root.  It was Ball #2.
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Although I got the first two balls to come out this way, I wasn’t happy that I didn’t see either of them coming.  I couldn’t pick the ball up by standing where I was.  Before, I was standing too close to the fence.  I had no contrast to pick the ball up except the light blue high.  I moved farther back.

My dad came back from the foul pole and decided to patrol the area near the school beneath the trees.
100_0284.jpgThis was my spot for much of BP.  If you’re wondering why I’m wearing a Phillies hat, its because the only Pirate hat I brought was the one Ian Snell threw me on 9-21-08, and I didn’t want to get that one sweaty.

Soon, another Home Run Ball came out.  I had crept in a bit, and that proved to be a mistake.  The ball hit about 10 feet in front of me and took a huge hop over my head.  My dad was in position to make the snag, but the second bounce went over his head too and hit off of the white shed in the picture below.  I ran the ball down, it was ball #3
100_0286.jpgBesides the guy in the Phillies jersey a couple pictures up, there were a few entrepreneurial ballhawks in attendance today.  They were rough looking locals who caught balls and sold them on the street for $4 or $5.  Whenever these guys got a ball, they would take out a brush and doctor the balls up.  I was told later by some guy that they bleached the balls to make them look brand new.  They also dominated balls that landed within the fence which you can see in the first picture.  They had 6 foot sticks that they would inch the balls closer to the fence, and then squeeze the ball under the fence.  I could’ve had maybe 2 more balls today if I had a way to get these balls.  There were 3 of these guys and a little kid.  They didn’t hang around for long though.   I continued to wait patiently for my next opportunity.
100_0287.jpgI got Ball #4 a bit later.  It was a home run ball that hit off a palm tree and had lost most of its momentum.  It started rolling towards me in the parking lot with one of the hustler ballhawk bleachers in pursuit.  I charged the ball like an infielder charges a slow roller and got to it just in time. 

Another ball came out soon after that my Dad chased down for his first career batting practice home run ball.  He is hoping to get another one tomorrow for one of his nephews.

Batting practice then ended.  I had got 4 balls, but I wasn’t done yet.  Next to where I had been standing was a school.  The school was directly behind the left field wall.  The roof of the school was completely flat, meaning balls that were hit on the school stayed on the school.  Before leaving, I had looked around for any “Easter Eggs.”  There was one behind the batter’s eye in Center Field, but it was a good 15 feet beyond the fence.  Impossible to get.  I walked over to right center field.  There were a good 7 balls laying on the Pirates infield practice field.  No one was around at all, but the gates were locked.  I waited for a bit and then got an 8 foot long 2×4 off of a scrap heap.

Earlier in batting practice, a ball had landed on the aforementioned school.  I thought I may have a chance of reaching it.
100_0288.jpgLook closely, can you see the ball?

I tried to reach it with the 2×4 board, but couldn’t because the roof was too high and I couldn’t get enough leverage.  I needed to be able to stand on something and I would be able to get it.

My dad had the idea of moving over a wooden picnic table for me to stand on.
100_0289.jpgI couldn’t see the ball, so with my dad telling me “left, right” etc, I was able to get ball #5.
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I was pleased with 5 balls
for my first time snagging in Bradenton.  It was a completely different experience than what I am used to.  Not being able to see the ball until it was landing made it fun to chase the balls down.  It also gave those with some agility an advantage.  There was also a lot of luck involved.  There was some 80 year old guy walking in from the parking lot who got a home run ball that clanked off a branch, took a soft bounce on the concrete and right into his hand.

The Bradenton ballhawk experience is much like the Chicago Cubs’ Waveland Avenue experience.  You really can’t see the ball until the last second, and then you have to scramble to chase it down.  It was fun.

On to the game:
100_0291.jpgThe Pirates gave most of their regulars the day off.  The only regular today was Adam LaRoche.  Many regulars were given off due to the night game yesterday.  I was a little disappointed.  At least the Phillies brought all of their stars.    Ian Snell was on the mound for the Pirates.  The Pirates ended up winning the game 10-4, fueled by Andrew McCutchen’s 5 for 5 day.  There were some towering home runs in the game, including a Ryan Howard shot that cleared the batter’s eye.

I’ll close this entry with some action shots from today’s game:
Shane Victorino:
100_0295.jpgRyan Howard:
100_0303.jpgAndrew McCutchen:
100_0336.jpgBrian Bixler:
100_0308.jpgAdam LaRoche:
100_0316.jpgJamie Moyer vs Craig Monroe:
100_0344.jpgAndrew McCutchen close up:
100_0354.jpgTomorrow I will head to Tampa FL to see the Pirates take on the New York Yankees at George Steinbrenner Field.

2008 Season Final Stats

2008 TOTALS:
• 56 games attended (i attended approximately 15 more, but went with no intention of snagging – these were non-BP games, such as Sundays)
• 2 stadiums
• 128 balls
• 2.29 balls per game
• Most balls at one game: 7
• Fewest balls at one game: 0
• Game Balls: 0

BALLS BY MONTH:
• April — 20
• May — 18
• June — 34
• July — 15
• August — 25
• September — 16

BALLS BY SOURCE:
• Thrown — 20
• Hit — 101
• Glove trick — 3
• Found (aka “Easter eggs”) — 4

BALLS BY PORTION OF THE DAY: (estimate)
• Batting practice — 114
• Pregame (not during BP) — 8
• During games (including thrown balls) — 6
• After games — 0

BALLS BY STADIUM:
• PNC Park — 123
• Progressive Field — 5

PNC PARK:
• 71 games attended
• 123 balls
• 1.7 balls per game

PROGRESSIVE FIELD:
• 1 game attended
• 5 balls
• 5.0 balls per game

RECORDS:
• Most balls at one game: 7 (June 20th, 2008 vs Blue Jays @ PNC Park)
• Most balls in two consecutive games: 11
• Most balls in one month: 34

MILESTONES:
• 100th career ball obtained 6/20/08
• 100th ball of 2008 obtained on 8/25/08 – Derrek Lee Home Run.
• 100th ball at PNC Park in 2008 obtained on 8/30/08, thrown by Ian Snell
• 111th ball at PNC Park in 2008 to break Jim’s record caught 9/14/08 – HR by Brenden Ryan

OTHER ITEMS COLLECTED:
• Ian Snell brand new autographed batting practice hat (thrown 9/21 into crowd)
• 2 Shea Stadium commerorative balls
• 1 National Park commemorative ball
• 1 Yankee Stadium commemorative ball

HIGHLIGHTS:
• Catching Ian Snell’s Batting Practice Hat after the final game of the season.
• Taking actual batting practice on the field of PNC Park on 9/24/08

LOWLIGHT:
• Badly injuring my leg on 7/8/08 after snagging one ball.  I banged it off of a bleacher and it swelled up real quickly.  It looked like a baseball was under my skin it was bulging so bad.  I went to First Aid, and then went home to ice it. I missed most of batting practice and only ended up getting 1 ball that day, and it had a huge freakin’ H on it from the Houston Astros.

LIFETIME TOTALS:
• 166 balls
• 1 game ball
• 5 balls outside of Pittsburgh
• 2 major league stadiums with at least one ball

CURRENT STREAKS:
• 7 total consecutive games with at least one ball

BALLS BY YEAR (GAME BALLS IN PARENTHESES):
• 2006 —- 5 (1)
• 2007 —- 33
• 2008 —- 128

9-20-08 PNC Park, Astros @ Pirates

There was a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert tonight, and sellout was expected, so I wasn’t sure if batting practice would be crowded or not.  Luckily, it wasn’t as most of the “fans” of the band showed up around the 7th inning. 

My strategy for today was to spend the first part of batting practice in the left field corner in foul territory.  I wasn’t the first one to get to the spot, as a ballhawk named Dan beat me there.  I did however, have some early success in this spot.  Upon entering the lower level, being the second person in, I found ball #1 laying on a step.  I quickly snatched it up, wrote #160 on it, and got to the small 2 foot fence seperating the seats from the warning track in foul territory.  After watching the Pirates bat time after time, I’ve come to the realization that my best chance of getting a ball was to come to foul territory.  The Pirates best right handed home run hitter is Andy KaRoche, with Jason Michaels a close second.  However, they do not hit many.  I came to the left field foul line for players such as Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, Ryan Doumit, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Brandon Moss.  They are left handed batters that I assumed would try to hit the ball the other way at some point during their turn in the cage.  I was anticipating their opposite field fly balls to slice directly to where I was.  However, they didn’t oblige.

Luckily Jack Wilson came up to bat.  He usually over pulls the ball into foul territory.  During his round he hit a long fly ball foul that rattled around in the seats around 20 rows up from where I was standing.  Immediately after he hit it, I went racing after it.  Just then, the very next pitch, Jack hit a line drive foul ball to the direct spot where I was just standing.   I was closer to the ball that was just hit, so I turned around and picked up ball #2, and then jogged up the stairs and found the ball that was hit 20 rows back, ball #3.    Luckily, there weren’t any other fans in the section, as it was still early (about 4:40).

Near the end of the Pirates round of BP I decided to move back to the left field bleachers as I noticed the Pirates were throwing a ton of balls into the stands.  Especially Ian Snell.  Predictably, they didn’t thow any to me.

During the Astros round of BP, I had an incident with a fellow fan.  There’s some guy who always wears a Pirates Batting Practice “Lebeck 22″ Jersey on Saturday games.  He’s about 47 years old and sports a crappy Wal Mart plastic imitation glove.  I’m not a fan of this guy because he always stands in “my spot.”  Whenever he comes I usually go a row in front of him.  Anyway, a Houston Astros sent a deep home run ball directly at us.  The ball was over my head.  Lebeck reached up and almost caught the ball, but it hit in his unoiled, unbroken in glove pocket and bounced out.  Myself and another ballhawk went after the missed ball, and I ended up grabbing it barehanded underneath the bleacher.  It was ball #4.   This Lebeck guy was furious.  He started screaming at me that it was his ball because it hit his pocket.  When I totally ignored him and walked back to my spot he started calling me hurtful names, such as Jerk.  He went on to state that “I’ve never seen a ball hit in someone’s pocket and them not be given the ball.”  Apparently he has never been to batting practice before.  Just earlier in the day, Romulo Sanchez tossed a ball to a 16 year old kid named Amac.  Amac missed the ball due to the sun, and Jim raced over and snatched it away.  I misplayed maybe 4 balls this year that hit off of my glove.  I was never given the ball back.  Did I cry about it, no.  Lebeck continued making comments directed at me.  I largely ignored him.  The only thing I said to him was, “You missed the ball – If you want it, catch it.”  I decided not to use profanities or anything because I didn’t feel like escalating with this idiot.

Later on in batting practice I caught ball #5 on the fly by ranging to my right.  Near the end of batting practice I caught my final ball of the season on the bounce off of the warning track.  It was ball #6.  I had to leap and catch this one high above my head because I had to move down to row C due to it being the only open row.  Rows E-F are the best for playing the high bounces off of the warning track at PNC.

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Game:  6 balls
Season: 127 balls
Career:  165 balls
Hit List:  165 Hits  ties me for #3939th place on the all time list with Jim Lindeman and Ron Gardenhire.  Lindeman is probably best know, at least by me, for his role as a bench player in RBI BASEBALL, probably one of the greatest baseball games ever created.  Whenever I was the Cardinals (usually picked them so I could run all over the competition with Coleman, Smith, and McGee), Lindeman was an important pinch hitter for my starting pitcher.

Attendance: 36,621 (95.5% full)

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9-19-08 PNC Park, Astros @ Pirates

Today kicked off the final home stand of the year.  The Astros were in town and I was hoping for some BP homers.

I didn’t get anything in the 15 minutes that the Pirates batted, but what else is new?  When the Astros came up to bat, an unidentified Astro launched a HR onto the concourse below the Rotunda.  Usually, I just let those HR’s go, but since it was still not 5:30 yet and there weren’t a lot of fans, and I still hadn’t caught anything, I raced after it.  There was another ballhawk going for it, but I managed to glove the ball as it was bouncing off a trash can a split second before he did.  Ball #1 had a huge H tattooed on it, as is customary with Houston Astros balls.

About 10 minutes later, Hunter Pence hit a HR ball directly at me that I caught with ease.  It was ball #2, and was my final one of the day. 

I’ve been disappointed with September batting practices so far.  My best showing has been 2 balls, seemingly every BP.  I thought that with kids back in school, and with sparse BP crowds, that I’d be cleaning up.  I guess I was wrong.
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Statistics:
Game: 2 balls
Season: 121 balls
Career: 159 balls
Hit List:  159 hits ties me with Skeeter Barnes for #3,991 place on the all time hits list.

Attendance: 26,301 (68.6% full)
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9-17-08 PNC Park, Dodgers @ Pirates

The Dodgers do not hit many home runs in batting practice.  They are also especially stingy when it comes to tossing balls into the stands.  Maybe it’s the pressure of the playoff race, but they ignored every polite request that I made for a ball.

I got ball #1 of the day completely by accident.  Since this was a Wednesday game, there weren’t many people at batting practice.  About 5 minutes in, a Pirate hit a long home run that ended up going onto the concourse behind the bleachers.  I ran over a section but the ball sailed 20 feet over my head.  As I got to the spot, I slightly twisted my ankle on something.  I looked down, and there was ball #1, just sitting there on the concrete.  My first reaction was that maybe someone had dropped it, but there was no one even in the section.  The ball must have been hit prior to the gates opening, and none of the ushers bothered picking it up.  You’ll see in the picture at the end of this blog that it has a big scuff mark above Rawlings from hitting on the concrete.

917manny.jpgWhen it came time for the Dodgers to hit, Manny came out to left field to shag fly balls.  Some fans, including myself, tried to get his attention, but he didn’t so much as even glance over.  Most left fielders, when shagging fly balls, will throw to second base after catching the ball. Manny however, kept throwing his balls to home plate, where they would roll in and interfere with the batter that was taking batting practice.  I thought it was pretty funny, but that’s just Manny being Manny.

I only caught one ball during the Dodgers portion of batting practice.  I think Casey Blake hit it, but I’m not positive.  Anyway, when it was hit, I drifted to my right and made the easy catch.  The ball looked brand new!  Ball #2 was my final one of the day. 

By the way, legendary ball hawk, Jim Saylor caught Adam LaRoche’s first home run of the night.  He’s in the white shirt and dives onto the ground to get the ball.  He has caught more home run balls in PNC Park history than anyone else.  Click HERE for the video.

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Statistics:
Game: 2 balls
Season:  119 balls
Career:  157 balls
Hit List:  157 ties me with Ricky Otero for #4,013th place all time

Attendance: 11,883 (31% full)
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