Results tagged ‘ Diamondbacks ’

2012 NL West Predictions & Preview

Today, I’ve decided to focus on the final remaining division in my 2012 MLB Predictions series. In case you missed my division previews, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, AL WestNL East  and NL Central preview by clicking on the links provided.

I’ve used the Major League Baseball Yearbook magazine to provide the statistical projects.

Here’s how I think the NL West will end up:

1st Place: San Francisco Giants.  (My prediction 88-74)
The Giants finished in second place to the Diamondbacks last season, but I think that they’ll win a few more games in 2012 with the return of Buster Posey to the lineup.  I had trouble picking a winner for the NL West, because I love the Giants starters, the Diamondbacks are solid offensively and pitching wise, and the Rockies offense looks great.  Ultimately, I had to go with the starting pitching.

Posey suffered a gruesome injury on a home plate collision that cut short his 2012 campaign.  The former Rookie of the Year is healthy now, which should help an otherwise below average offense.

Aubrey Huff struggled a bit last year, hitting just .246 with 12 homers.  At age 35, you have to wonder how much he has left in his declining skill set.  Ideally, you’d like to see more production from your first baseman than Huff offered last season.

Freddy Sanchez dealt with shoulder issues last year and hopes to be ready for opening day.  The former NL batting champ gives the Giants good defense and a solid average year in a year out.

“The Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval should provide the most pop in the lineup. He walloped 24 dingers last year.  Sandoval just needs to keep his weight in check so it doesn’t hinder him defensively.

The Giants outfield is sub par.  There’s Melky Cabrera, who has bounced around in recent seasons and would classify as an above average outfielder,

but then there’s Angel Pagan, who doesn’t offer much of anything offensively,

and Nate Schierholtz, who doesn’t offer much either.

The Giants playoff aspirations will hinge on Tim Lincecum and the starting staff.  Lincecum has arguably been the best pitcher in the National League since his debut several seasons ago.

Matt Cain, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season, should be motivated to put up huge numbers in his ‘contract’ year.  Cain would be the ace of most staffs, but fits in nicely behind Lincecum as the #2 of this staff.

Is it just me, or does Cain look eerily similar to this guy in that picture:

Actor John C Reilly.

Madison Bumgarner had a 3.21 ERA last season.  That’s amazing for a #3 starter.

Ryan Vogelsong had the comeback of the decade, rebuilding his career and posting a 2.71 ERA while becoming an All Star at age 34.  Vogelsong struggled mightly in Pittsburgh when he was the centerpiece of the Jason Schmidt deal that sent Schmidt off to the Giants.  After a couple seasons as a mop up man in the Pirates bullpen, Vogelsong disappeared – he went and played in Japan for awhile – before resurfacing last year to baffle NL batters.  What a story.

The 5th man of the rotation will be Barry Zito, who will make 19 million dollars in 2012, and still hasn’t posted a winning record or sub 4.00 ERA in his 5 seasons with the Giants.  His contract has really hurt the Giants, who could’ve used those millions and millions of dollars to add more offense.  Maybe he should focus more on pitching and less on guitar and destroying his liver:

The closer will be the crazy Brian Wilson.  I vote for his 2013 Topps Card to be a landscape of this shot:  Nothing more:

Wilson surely will look creepier and creepier as the season progresses.  What’s he planning on doing with his beard?  Will he ever cut or trim it?

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Buster Posey .297-18-75
1B Aubrey Huff .258-15-63
2B Freddy Sanchez .291-8-56
3B Pablo Sandoval .306-24-77
SS Brandon Crawford .243-6-38
LF Angel Pagan .272-10-73
CF Melky Cabrera .314-11-65
RF Nate Schierholtz .273-11-53

SP Tim Lincecum 14-12, 2.91 ERA, 213 IP, 223 K
SP Matt Cain 12-11, 2.97 ERA, 218 IP, 174 K
SP Madison Bumgarner 13-11, 3.05 ERA, 195 IP, 176 K
SP Ryan Vogelsong 11-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 174 K
SP Barry Zito 5-9, 4.73 ERA, 116 IP, 85 K
RP Brian Wilson 2.85 ERA, 35 SV, 60 IP, 67 K
RP Sergio Romo 1.99 ERA, 1 SV, 50 IP, 65 K

2nd  place: Arizona Diamondbacks (My prediction 85-77)
The Diamondbacks won the division last season with 94 wins, which shocked baseball, especially since they had only won 69 games the year before.  25 win improvements are very rare.  Nearly the same team returns in 2012, with new additions Trevor Cahill and Jason Kubel.  However, I think that the Diamondbacks greatly overachieved in 2011, and probably won’t quite duplicate their success.

Miguel Montero is one of the better young catchers in the game.  He’ll also be a free agent soon and may look for Yadier Molina type money.

Paul Goldschmidt will man first base.  He’s some power, but he’s a young player who could face difficulty.  He’ll be one to watch.

Aaron Hill used to be really good with the Blue Jays, but lost his way last year when he only hit 8 homers. He hit 36 homers in 2009.  What happened?

Ryan Roberts is a defensive liability, but has some power to go along with all of those crazy tattoos.

Stephen Drew had a down year in 2011 and could bounce back after only hitting .252-5-45 in 2011.

The outfield of the Diamondbacks is solid – way better than the Giants.  They’ve got Justin Upton, who hit 31 homers last year,

Chris Young, who also has pop – 20 homers in 2011, but has struggled with his batting average and on base percentage,

and Jason Kubel, who only hit 12 bombs in 2011 with the Twins, but hit at least 20 in his previous three seasons.

The starting rotation is anchored by Ian Kennedy, who had the best record in Major League baseball last year at 21-4.  Can he duplicate it?  I say not likely.

Daniel Hudson will be the #2 starter, who posted a record of 16-12 last year.

Trevor Cahill, and Josh Collmenter are slightly above average and round out the rest of the rotation.  The #5 job could go to Barry Enright or Wade Miley.

The Diamondbacks were extremely strong in the bullpen last year.  Their weakest link was Craig Breslow, and his ERA was a decent 3.79.  JJ Putz had the second best season of his 9 year career when he posted a 2.17 ERA with 45 saves.

Bullpen pitchers are tough to predict though from season to season.  I think the Diamondbacks may see a bit of a regression in the later innings this year.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Miguel Montero .292-17-80
1B Paul Goldschmidt .275-24-78
2B Aaron Hill .265-15-76
3B Ryan Roberts .247-16-57
SS Stephen Drew .261-11-68
LF Jason Kubel .264-20-87
CF Chris Young .235-19-69
RF Justin  Upton .286-30-90

SP Daniel Hudson 17-12, 3.23 ERA, 231 IP, 180 K
SP Ian Kennedy 17-8, 3.13 ERA, 207 IP, 185 K
SP Trevor Cahill 15-13, 3.86 ERA, 200 IP, 143 K
SP Josh Collmenter 13-13, 3.50 ERA, 193 IP, 125 K
SP Wade Miley 10-10, 4.32 ERA, 154 IP, 127 K
RP JJ Putz 2.41 ERA, 40 SV, 52 IP, 57 K
RP David Hernandez 3.98 ERA, 6 SV, 75 IP, 72 K
3rd place place: Colorado Rockies.  (My prediction 82-80)
Even though the Rockies have used the humidor for a few years to negate the effects of high altitude offense, the Rockies look to have a potent lineup for the coming year.

Ramon Hernandez, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds replaces Chris Iannetta at catcher.

Todd Helton, who once put up ridiculous stats, hasn’t hit 20 homers since 2005, but still can deliver a decent batting average.

Second base could feature Eric Young Jr, Jonathan Herrera or Chris Nelson

I’m not a fan of Casey Blake as the team’s third baseman.  He’s 38, and the Rockies should be nervous that this is the season where everything kind of falls apart for him and he needs to be a backup or retire.

Troy Tulowitzki is the Rockies best player, and could possibly win the NL MVP award if the Rockies have a decent year.  Not too many shortstops in the game can provide 30 homers and 100+ RBIs anymore.

The outfield looks great.  The speedy Dexter Fowler, rumored to have increased his muscle mass, will roam center field.

At the corners, the Rockies have a star in Carlos Gonzalez – who belted 26 homers last year,

and free agent acquisition Michael Cuddyer.  Cuddyer hit 20 bombs for the Twins and has been a consistently solid performer.

The Rockies rotation looks iffy.  Without Ubaldo Jimenez, there is no clear ace.  Possibly Jhoulys Chacin could fill that role.  He pitched well at just 23 years old last year.

There’s also Jorge De La Rosa.  He was injured last season, but went 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA when he did pitch.

Who will be the closer this year?  Rafael Betancourt?  He’s got good stuff, but his career high in saves is 8.  How will he handle the pressure?  I guess we’ll find out.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Ramon Hernandez .278-13-42
1B Todd Helton .292-13-66
2B Chris Nelson .263-7-32
3B Casey Blake .281-15-73
SS Troy Tulowitzki .311-34-117
LF Michael Cuddyer .301-26-101
CF Dexter Fowler .268-7-51
RF Carlos Gonzalez .307-32-110

SP Jorge De La Rosa 10-4, 3.33 ERA, 127 IP, 126 K
SP Jhoulys Chacin 13-13, 3.58 ERA, 193 IP, 161 K
SP Juan Nicasio 9-10, 3.95 ERA, 171 IP, 140 K
SP Tyler Chatwood 8-13, 4.54 ERA, 157 IP, 86 K
SP Esmil Rogers 9-11, 5.35 ERA, 168 IP, 137 K
RP Rafael Betancourt 2.82 ERA, 27 SV, 61 IP, 78 K
RP Matt Belisle 3.16 ERA, 0 SV, 83 IP, 72 K

4th place: Los Angeles Dodgers (My prediction 76-86)
The Dodgers went 81-81 last year thanks mostly to the MVP caliber season of Matt Kemp and the Cy Young season of Clayton Kershaw.  Kershaw was valued at 7 wins above a replacement starter,

and Matt Kemp, a whopping 10 WaR.  That’s 17 wins.

Without those 2 guys, the Dodgers might have been 64-98 last year.  The fact of the matter is, that they have those two guys, and although I think Kershaw and Kemp will do great in 2012, I don’t think they’ll match their 2011 campaigns.

Matt Kemp however, disagrees.  He’s projecting a 50 homer, 50 steal season from himself.   For the Dodgers sake, hopefully he can, because the rest of their team is very average.

AJ Ellis as the starter?  Replacement level player.

James Loney hasn’t nearly done anything close to what he’s capable of doing.  As a youngster in 2007 he hit 15 homers with a .331 average.  He’s never bettered either of those numbers since.

Mark Ellis is average at best.  He had some good seasons in Oakland years ago, but he’s 35 years old now.

Dee Gordon brings blazing speed to the top of the lineup.  He has no power whatsoever, but will make pitchers sweat a little extra when he takes his lead off of first base.

Juan Uribe was horrendous in 2011, hitting just .204 with 4 homers.  Ugh.

Andre Ethier didn’t contribute much last year, hitting only 11 homers in 135 games.  Where did his power go?

Juan Rivera could take the other outfield spot, hitting 11 homers last year, although personally, I’d rather see Jerry Sands there.  Sands hit 35 homers in 2010 and 33 in 2011 between AAA and the bigs.  Big power.

Besides Kershaw, the Dodgers also have Ted Lilly – who is a class A jerk during batting practice.  Lilly is a soft tossing lefty who has been moderately successful in the major leagues.

Chad Billingsley has had some decent seasons in the past, and is young enough that he could return to the Billingsley of 2007-2008.

The other starters, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, are just average at best.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C AJ Ellis .279-8-54
1B James Loney .287-12-72
2B Mark Ellis .260-7-43
3B Juan Uribe .227-8-36
SS Dee Gordon .285-0-29
LF Juan Rivera .261-13-73
CF Matt Kemp .308-35-115
RF Andre Ethier .287-14-66
SP Clayton Kershaw 18-7, 2.41 ERA, 224 IP, 234 K
SP Ted Lilly 11-12, 3.67 ERA, 189 IP, 160 K
SP Chad Billingsley 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 185 IP, 156 K
SP Aaron Harang 13-9, 3.80 ERA, 211 IP, 168 K
SP Chris Capuano 9-10, 4.65 ERA, 163 IP, 149 K
RP Javy Guerra 3.11 ERA, 30 SV, 64 IP, 55 K
RP Kenley Jansen 3.69 ERA, 9 SV, 63 IP, 69 K

5th place:  San Diego Padres (My prediction 65-97)
The Padres are in rebuilding mode and went 71-91 last season, quite a disappointment after winning 90 games in 2010.  I expect things to get a little worse before they start to get better in San Diego.

Of all five players in the infield, none hit more than 9 home runs in 2011.  That’s a major offensive power outage.  Granted, the Padres play their home games at the cavernous Petco Park – but they also get to play 81 games on the road.

Nick Hundley looks to be the starter until top prospect Yasmani Grandal, acquired in the Mat Latos deal, is ready.

Yonder Alonso, also acquired in the same deal, will man first.

The O-Dog, Orlando Hudson, has had a nice career as a middle infielder, and will hope to rebound from a .246 avg from last year.

Remember when Jason Bartlett was an All Star and getting votes in the MVP award race as a Rays shortstop?  Well he’s far from that now, hitting just 2 homers last year to go along with a .245 average.  His WaR last year was a 0.1, meaning he was basically a scrap heap replacement level player.  He definitely needs to improve or the Padres could give at bats to Everth Cabrera.

Chase Headley was once a top prospect, ranked #32 overall in the pre-2008 season.   It’s four years later, and he only has 36 homers in 2,114 plate appearances to go with a .269 average.  He needs to produce, or could risk being non-tendered after the season.

The outfield features Carlos Quentin, Kyle Blanks, and Cameron Maybin.  They all possess the potential to put up power numbers and should make for interesting batting practices.

Quentin is still only 29 and may have some good years left in him.

Maybin is the face of the franchise now, signing a five year, $25 million contract in the offseason.

There’s also big Kyle Blanks, who could potentially hit 20 homers.

The rotation features Edinson Volquez, acquired for Mat Latos.  Volquez needs a bounce back season after posting a 5.71 ERA in 20 starts last year.

Tim Stauffer could be the ace, posting a 3.73 ERA last season.

The closer this year will be Huston Street, brought in to replace Heath Bell.

It’s going to be another long year for the Padres.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Nick Hundley .286-13-45
1B Yonder Alonso .285-13-67
2B Orlando Hudson .256-8-53
3B Chase Headley .276-6-46
SS Jason Bartlett .254-3-38
LF Carlos Quentin .251-19-74
CF Cameron Maybin .260-11-42
RF Will Veneable .248-11-47

SP Tim Stauffer 9-12, 3.47 ERA, 171 IP, 118 K
SP Edinson Volquez 7-9, 4.32 ERA, 144 IP, 140 K
SP Clayton Richard 12-11, 4.00 ERA, 191 IP, 130 K
SP Cory Luebke 12-10, 3.64 ERA, 195 IP, 184 K
SP Dustin Moseley 8-11, 3.46 ERA, 182 IP, 106 K
RP Huston Street 3.99 ERA, 27 SV, 56 IP, 51 K
RP Luke Gregorson 3.06 ERA, 4 SV, 65 IP, 59

So there you have it.

How do you think they’ll finish?

There’s only 19 more days.  NineTEEN – we are officially in the teens.  It won’t be long now.  Also, you could win this CC Sabathia shirt tomorrow, so check back for that.

6-9-11 PNC Park

Today was the final day that the Diamondbacks were in town, and I for one, am not sorry to see them leave.  They just don’t hit many balls into the stands, which makes for a boring batting practice.

To make matters worse, the Pirates did not hit today.  They skipped batting practice, so at 5PM, when the gates opened, the Diamondbacks were already on the field hitting.

Upon running in, I was able to get Charles Nagy to toss me ball #1.  Here he is talking to ex-Pirate Zach Duke.

My second ball was tossed to me by Esmerling Vasquez in left field:

And ball #3 was a ground rule double that I snagged in section 136.  Nick Pelescak gets an assist as he slowed the ball down by deflecting it.  Playing ground rule doubles can be a tricky thing.

I snagged it here,

and moments later I snagged another ground rule double for ball #4 in virtually the same spot.

My fifth ball was yet another ground rule double.  It hung up in the air and I snagged it over the man in the light blue shirt.

My sixth and final ball of the day was via the glove trick by the foul pole in left field.

The Diamondbacks stopped hitting at 5:42 PM, I immediately left the park when they were done.

Today’s baseballs:

Sweet spots:

STATISTICS:
Game:  6 balls (3 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device,)
Season:  192 balls (74 hit, 44 thrown, 49 device, 25 found)
Games: 32 games
Average:  6.00 balls per game
Career:  1,314 balls
Attendance: 12,468

6-8-11 PNC Park

After a dismal two ball day yesterday, things got off to a much better start.  I snagged two balls within the first fifteen seconds today.  That’s right, it took a full BP to get just two yesterday.

Upon running in, there were several fans already in the stands for a season ticket holder batting practice viewing event.  They were near the bullpen, so I ran towards the foul pole, where I found ball #1 in the third row back.  Also, a home run landed near the foul pole as I entered the bleachers and was picked up by a Pirates season ticket representative.  He tossed it to me for ball #2.

My third ball was glove tricked directly behind the left field foul pole after the Diamondbacks came out to hit.

(By the way, the Pirates ran off the field at 5:05.  Perhaps at 90 degrees it was too hot to take a full BP?)

By the way, the entire first group of Diamondbacks were ALL left handed, so there was virtually no chance of any batted balls landing in left field.  Rather than go over and play the Riverwalk for deep home runs, I elected to stay in left field and hope for a toss up.   It paid off as Josh Collmenter tossed me ball #4 of the day.

I had planned on running over to right field as four home runs landed there during the Diamondbacks first group, but I watched as the ushers systematically scanned each and every row and picked up all four.  So, figuring that there wasn’t much to be found in right, I ran over to foul territory to see if a foul ball that had been hit earlier in batting practice was still there.

It paid off as I found ball #5 in the handicapped section in foul territory.  As I was leaving to return to the right field bleachers, a batter hit a foul ball into the upper seats.  I simply turned around to go claim it.  I had seen where the ball landed, but I couldn’t find it.  Two other ballhawks started to come over to look and claim it for themselves, so I pulled some trickery and bent down as if I had found it, and stood back up holding the previous ball that I had found.  This bought me another minute or two, as the other ballhawks went back to their spots along front row in foul territory.  Eventually, I found the ball, it had rolled the whole way down to row A in section 130.  It was ball #6.

Back in left field, there wasn’t much action to be had.  I went the next twenty five minutes without anything until Xavier Nady hit a ground rule double that I snagged here:

The entire batting practice there were three home runs to left field.  That’s it.  It didn’t help that the Diamondbacks were being frugal and were tossing up precious few baseballs.  Nick Pelescak capped off batting practice by shouting at the Diamondbacks as they ran off the field, “You’re all a bunch of cheapskates!”

The D’Backs BP has been the worst I’ve seen this year.  One more game with them this year on Thursday, and then the Mets come into town for 4.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate.

Today’s baseballs:

Sweet spots:

STATISTICS:
Game:  7 balls (2 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device, 2 found)
Season:  186 balls (71 hit, 42 thrown, 48 device, 25 found)
Games: 31 games
Average:  6.00 balls per game
Career:  1,308 balls
Attendance: 14,015

9-19-10 PNC Park

It was a Sunday day game, and there was no batting practice.  I still went to the game though.  Surprisingly, it would be my best game of the week.

From 11-11:30 on Sundays, fans have to stay on the Riverwalk.  They are not allowed to enter the main seating bowl, even if they are season ticket holders.  While I was waiting near the bullpens, Chan Ho Park got my attention and threw me a ball.  He threw it from center field, so I moved back 20 feet before he threw it to give myself plenty of room to make the catch.
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Park then motioned for me to give it to a little kid, so I did.  He hooked me up with a second ball for me to keep a minute later.  However, it was a little short and bounced off the flag pole base and over my head.

Luckily, few people were in the park at the time, so I chased it down easily here:
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I took 2 rounds on the field with 310-340-360-340-310 dimensions and had one home run – over the 340 sign in left center.

9-17-10 PNC Park

I got to the stadium very late.  I was at the end of a massive line, and since there was only one ticket scanner, and people had multiple tickets to get scanned so they could get their Roberto Clemente busts, I had to wait almost 10 minutes to get inside.

Once I did get into the bleachers, the field was empty.  I had completely missed the Pirates BP.  However, I found out that the Pirates didn’t even take batting practice. 
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I thought I might possibly get shut out, but at 5:30, Ryan Church threw me a ball in center field to put me on the board.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  4 balls ( 1 hit, 3 thrown )
Season:  521 balls (251 hit, 122 thrown, 72 device, 76 found)
Games: 81 games
Average:  6.43 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 5
Career:  1,099 balls
Streak:  177 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance: 22,939
Balls needed to break single season record: 23

8-6-09 PNC Park

Today, I was the first one in to the left field bleachers.  I had the whole area to myself for at least sixty seconds.  However, there were no Easter Eggs, and no home runs sailing into the bleachers.  Alas, I failed to get any balls during the Pirates portion of batting practice.

When the Diamondbacks came out to hit, I disappeared for a moment underneath the general admission bleachers to change.  However, I realized that I had left my Diamondbacks shirt at home.  I had taken it out of my bag last night so it wouldn’t get all wrinkled, and neglected to re-pack it today before I left.  I was grumbling at myself for being an idiot for a good part of the D’backs BP.

The crowd today was 17,000 – which doesn’t seem like a lot.  Unfortunately, during batting practice, fans managed to clog up all of the rows in the bleachers.  Most sections in the bleachers are only six rows deep, so once 5:30 rolls around, and all of the non-season ticket holders come in, it gets pretty jammed up.    It just takes one person to block a whole row.  Most people who come to batting practice just stand there and only react when a ball is hit right at them.
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I’d prefer to always have a row open to my left and my right.  Today, it didn’t matter though, as I couldn’t move after any balls anyway due to my extremely slow-in-recovering back.

I did manage to snag two balls during the Diamondbacks portion of batting practice.  They were both in left field, and they were both with the glove trick.

I went to right field and center field during BP, but was shut out there as well.

After batting practice ended, I checked out the batters eye area in center field.
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STATISTICS:
Game:  3 balls (3 device)
Season:  253 balls (131 hit, 82 thrown, 40 device)
Games: 53 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.77 balls per game
Career:  419 balls
Streak:  68 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  17,311

8-5-09 PNC Park

When I woke up this morning, I was paying the price for staying for the entire game yesterday.  Also, it didn’t help that I lifted weights for an hour when I got home (just dumb bells – and it didn’t hurt my back at all at the time when I did it.)

When I took my first step to go downstairs this morning, my body locked up with another round of back spasms.  Will these ever go away?

Luckily, by the time the afternoon rolled around, I was able to somewhat walk, and went to the game.

I was probably the 3rd person into the bleachers, managing to execute an award jog/walk to pass by other ballhawks that might feel silly sprinting in.  There were two balls to be had, and Bryan Pelescak, another top notch ballhawk at PNC Park, got both of them.  He would go on to snag at least seven balls today.

I got my first ball about fifteen minutes into batting practice.  Mark Reynolds hit a monster shot into the second deck of the bleachers.  Home runs rarely ever go up there.  If balls do land there, its usually after bouncing off of concrete in the lower section.  Reynolds’ home run landed about four rows back, and I scurried up the stairs after it.  Luckily, no one else gave pursuit.

Before picking up the ball, I snapped a picture of ball #1.
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A bit later in the round, another Diamondback came up and hit a home run right down the line.  Luckily, I was standing nearby and was able to walk over and pick up ball #2 in the walkway between the left field rotunda and section 133.

I tried asking a few Diamondbacks for balls, but without luck.  There was one D’back that was particularly devilish.  He kept turning to the crowd and waving.  Several times he flaunted the ball towards the crowd, before hurling it back in towards the infield.  He gave up one ball, and it was one that he tossed into the second deck of bleachers.  He likely just wanted to see a scramble for the ball.

I tried chasing down another home run, but it was picked up by an employee who handed it to a kid.

Walking back, I caught a home run (ball #3) at the very back of section 135, just below the second set of bleachers.  I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.

When 5:30 rolled around, and the rest of the stadium opened, I went over to center field to claim a ball from the center field batter’s eye.  The area is covered in ivy, and spells the word Pirates.  There is a fence that prevents any fans from entering the area to get balls.  Well, yesterday, there was a ball about eight feet in that would’ve been reachable had I brought my ‘Cleveland Stick’ – that collapsible measuring device that I use to get balls out of Heritage Park.  Unfortunately, the ball mysteriously had vanished. 

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Sweet spots:

STATISTICS:
Game:  6 balls (4 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  250 balls (131 hit, 82 thrown, 37 device)
Games: 52 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.81 balls per game
Career:  416 balls
Streak:  67 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  11,470

8-4-09 PNC Park

Today got off to an awful start – I was denied entrance upon the gates opening.  I had arrived at 4:15, waiting in line for 45 minutes, and when it came time for my ticket to be scanned, I heard that heart stopping sound, “beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep.” 

After attempting to scan the ticket thrice more, the employee told me that I couldn’t enter the park, and had to walk halfway around the park to Customer Service.  I was unbelievably irritated. 

On Monday, I had traded in several tickets that I won’t be able to use for a future game.  Of my three season tickets, I traded in two from today’s game.  The man who made the exchange hastily canceled the tickets in the computer system, and canceled the wrong seat numbers. 

By the time I got a ticket reprinted and got back into the ballpark, the Diamondbacks were already hitting.  I had missed the Pirates batting practice – and I wasn’t happy. 

To show my displeasure, I flung my backpack about eight feet, hoping it would slam off the bleacher, as to let the world know that I was ****** off.  Of course, the strap from the bag caught on the back support of the bleacher and caught the bag.  I couldn’t even slam my backpack down in disgust right today.

Once I entered the bleachers, I immediately spotted a ball on the warning track.  After flinging my glove out onto the field several times to nudge the ball closer, I reeled in ball #1 of the day.

Ball #2 came from (I think) Conor Jackson.  He came over to the warning track after I had used the glove trick.  I kept my glove out of view and on the bleacher, to look helpless.  I also got an assist from my Diamondbacks gear, as he happily tossed me ball #2.

After wasting some time in foul ground at 5:30, I headed over to the right field wall.
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The wall, dubbed the Clemente Wall, is dubiously steep, and tough to catch balls because of it.

I did manage to get ball #3 off the bat of a D’backs lefty.  It was hit a section to my left, and I walked over to get it.  Keep in mind, I am still suffering from bad back spasms, so I can’t move quickly.  Another ballhawk, Harold, was going for the same ball.  He pulled up and let me get this one, possibly aware of the fragility of my back.

Harold is widely known by the PNC Park faithful as having caught 830 some balls over the past 30+ years at PNC Park and Three Rivers Stadium.  He attends nearly every game and can be seen roaming the top of the Clemente Wall throughout BP.

Near the end of batting practice, I snagged ball #4 on the ricochet.  It bounced several rows back and shot up in the air, sailing back towards the field.  I braced myself against the railing seen in the picture below, and gingerly leaned out, snagging the ball barehanded. 
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STATISTICS:
Game:  4 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  244 balls (127 hit, 81 thrown, 36 device)
Games: 51 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.78 balls per game
Career:  410 balls
Attendance:  11,294

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