Results tagged ‘ Erik Jabs ’

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.
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.
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

• April — 20
• May — 18
• June — 34
• July — 15
• August — 25
• September — 16

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

• Batting practice — 114
• Pregame (not during BP) — 8
• During games (including thrown balls) — 6
• After games — 0

• PNC Park — 123
• Progressive Field — 5

• 71 games attended
• 123 balls
• 1.7 balls per game

• 1 game attended
• 5 balls
• 5.0 balls per game

• 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

• 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

• 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

• 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

• 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.

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

• 7 total consecutive games with at least one ball

• 2006 —- 5 (1)
• 2007 —- 33
• 2008 —- 128

9-21-08 PNC Park, Astros @ Pirates

Today was the last home game of the season, and likely my last Major League Baseball game of 2008.  Since it was a Sunday afternoon game, there was no batting practice.  The only chance I had at a ball was to get one thrown to me.  When the pitchers came out, I elected to go on the Astros’ side, because there were too many Pirates fans crowded behind the Pirates’ pitchers.  I donned my Astros gear hoping it would increase my chances of getting a ball.  
 921 astros pitchers.jpg

I set up behind the pitchers once they started throwing, hoping to catch an overthrow or wild pitch.  Unfortunately, no balls got loose.  After the pitchers were done throwing, I asked several of them politely for a ball.  None of them obliged, except for Chris Sampson, who tossed me a ball from 90 feet or so away.  He lobbed it so it would land on the warning track.  I reached out and caught it.  It was ball #1 of the day, and the only one that I would get.

I had purchased tickets from Stubhub behind the Pirates dugout, because last year, the players tossed all of their hats into the crowd after the game.  I was sitting in section 121 row A, but the ushers wouldn’t let anyone down into the lower 6 rows, so I got shut out.  Hats can only be thrown/tossed so far. 

After the game, I hat came from behind me.  I thought that some fan had thrown it.  So I didn’t really bother to go after it, even though it landed in the seat directly in front of me.  I looked back and a girl from the Bucco brigade had a big bag and was tossing out hats.  She was in the aisle between the dugout boxes and the infield boxes.  Since fans aren’t allowed down into the dugout boxes, I guess they tried to satisfy them by doing the hat thing this way.  I thought it was stupid.  I would rather have something from a player.

After a few minutes, John Grabow and Ian Snell came out and started tossing signed MLB baseballs and hats into the crowd.  I was lucky enough to grab one of Ian Snell’s autographed batting practice hats.  It was fitted, brand new, and still had the stickers on it ($27.99 price tag too!). 
921 hat.jpgSnell autographed it along the side of the sticker.
snell auto.jpgI came close to a couple of the baseballs, but it was pretty packed, and Ian and John were basically hand picking the people they were tossing to.  There was no randomly tossing the balls up in the air.

It was a great day to close out the season.  I managed to get 1 ball on a non-BP day, and I got an awesome BP hat.  If you’re wondering if I plan on wearing the hat, I definately am.  I’ve already removed the tags and have worn it once already.  It fits great!  I probably won’t wear it to BP’s because I don’t want it getting sweaty and ruined.

Below is a picture of the ball I snagged today:

921 ball.jpgStatistics:Avenbruce.jpg
Game:  1 ball
Season:  128 balls
Career:  166 balls
Hit List:  166 hits ties me with BRUCE AVEN for #3,931 on the all time hit list.  Aven was a one time Pittsburgh Pirate in 2000 and had a short career (obviously, with only 166 hits).

Attendance: 20,311 (52.9% full)

9-13-08 PNC Park, Cardinals @ Pirates

Due to the rainy weekend we’ve had, there was no batting practice today.  Last night’s game was delayed over an hour, canceling batting practice, and unfortunately, the same thing happened today.

I still got to the park at 4:30 in hopes that they would have BP, but had no such luck.  I put on my Cardinals gear when the Cardinals pitchers came out to start warming up.  There was hardly any competition. 

flores.jpgWhen Randy Flores was done tossing, he threw me his warm up ball.  I had positioned myself behind him and his catching partner.  When he was done, I politely asked for the ball.  He looked at me, then looked around, like he was looking for a kid, but couldn’t find another Cardinals “fan” – so he tossed the ball to me.  It was ball #1 of the day.
Moments later, Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pinero set up in front of me andstarting throwing with an unidentified pitcher in the outfield.  Wellemeyer and Piniero took alternate turns throwing.  I once again positioned myself behind them, in order to catch an overthrow.  It turns out there was an overthrow, but it hit off of my glove and back onto the field.  I stayed put in my spot, and several throws later, a low ball bounced under Wellemeyer’s glove and into my mitt.  The pitchers didn’t have any balls, so I asked them, “Do you want me to give it back?”  Piniero responded, “Yeah, we’ll give it back to you when we’re done.”  Five minutes later, Piniero kept his word and flipped me Ball #2

That was it.  They went into the clubhouse after they were done throwing and were’nt seen again until game time.  I was happy with getting two balls on a non-game day.
  913 balls.jpgStatistics
Game: 2 balls
Season: 114 balls
Career: 152 balls

*I’ve decided to mimic legendary ball hawk Zack Hample and compare my ball totals to the all time hit list.  As Hample states, ” it was more fun to chase a human than a lifeless milestone.”   With that, 152 balls puts me tied with pitcher Joe Niekro on the all time career hit list (4,065th place all time).

Attendance: 17,132 (44.7% full)
913 line.JPG


8-25-08 PNC Park, Cubs @ Pirates

The Pirates came back to Pittsburgh after an awful road trip to take on the rival Cubs of Chicago.  I usually hate it when the Cubs come to Pittsburgh because their fans travel well, and there are usually almost as many Cubs fans as Pirates fans. 

I didn’t get to the Center Field gate until 4:45 PM, so I figured I’d be at the end of a long line and lose a few minutes of BP time.  Luckily, I was fifth in line, as the “crowd” was late arriving.  There was a line back to the bridge by the time the gates opened at 5.

I’d been waiting for this day since last Wednesday, because I would have a chance to get my 100th ball of the season (I needed only 1 to achieve this milestone).  I stood between Sections 135 and 136, as I usually do, and came up empty during the Pirates portion of batting practice, which was 15 minutes worth.  The Pirates bat from 4:30-5:15, but the gates don’t open until 5 PM for season ticket holders.  Yeah, its stupid.

During the Pirates portion of batting practice, Craig Hansen was being a bit childish. Hansen.JPGSeveral people had asked him for balls that rolled his way, but he refused to oblige.  Around 5:10, a ball rolled towards Hansen.  He picked it up and threw it high and hard.  It hit off of a sign right below the score board.  If it had been a Home Run, it would’ve measured 550-580 feet from home plate.  Many folks around me took off running for the ball, swarming up the steps into the general admission bleachers.  I didn’t budge.  I figured Hansen had done it for his own amusement to watch all of the fans scurry about for the ball.  I’d seen Hansen do this before.  He took a ball during the last homestand and long tossed it way over the batters eye in Center Field.  The ball presumably landed in the Allegheny.  If any one got it, I’ll never know. 

The next ball that rolled Hansen’s way was a ball that I got, but not until 20 minutes later.  Hansen took the ball and chucked it into the upper deck.  Some fans just looked at each other with astonished looks on their faces.  I heard someone say, “Why did he do that?” 

I made a mental note of where the ball landed, several rows up in Section 328, and returned my concentration to batting practice. 

The Cubs were now taking batting practice and Alfonso Soriano was shagging balls in left field.  I didn’t even bother asking him to toss and balls to me, as I noticed he was too busy doing ridiculous dance steps to horrible music.  A few minutes into the Cubs portion of BP, Derrek Lee launched a deep fly to left field.  The ball hit off of a railing separating Section 136 from the Handicapped seating area, as seen in the picture below.825 Railing.jpg I drifted over to “take a look” at the HR, but I knew it was over my head.  The ball slammed off the railing, and directly at me.  I snatched it out of the air.  It was ball #1 of the day, and my one-hundredth ball of the season.  I received a congratulatory hand-shake from fellow ballhawk, Amac.  It was nice to finally be in triple digits. 

Soon after, 5:30 approached, and the rest of the stadium would be opening up.  I positioned myself at the bottom of the stairs just inside the left field gate.  At 5:30 I took off up the escalator, skipping every other step.  I was winded after about three steps, but kept pushing on, knowing that Hansen’s ball was somewhere in the upper deck, untouched and waiting to be claimed.
825 sec 328 Hansen.JPGAfter I reached the upper deck, I immediately turned left and went in the first walkway that I saw that led to Section 329.  I dashed up the stairs, ran over one section, and there it was, ball #2.  Thank you Craig Hansen. 

I took the elevator back down to the main concourse and walked back to left field.  It was getting pretty crowded, and I didn’t like my chances of getting a ball throw to me.  I decided to make my way over to the right field wall for the last 20 minutes of batting practice.  The right field wall is an awful place to catch HR balls because it is very steep, limiting a ballhawk’s range.  The reason I decided to go to right field was because there was virtually no one there, and I figured I’d be able to politely ask some Cubs players for a ball or two.

I set up in the first row of Section 142.  825 view of RF from CF.jpgIts the first section you see there on the right field wall.   While there I politely asked Neal Cotts, Sean Marshall, and Kosuke Fukudome for balls.   They never so much as even glanced up at the top of the wall.  Even though I had thrown on a Cubs shirt and hat.  There were also two coaches with fungo bats.  I was able to identify
them from their photos on my “cheat sheet,”  but they never so much as
came within 50 feet of the wall. Meanwhile, I was watching Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano launch several balls into the left field bleachers.  I was thinking, “Great choice Erik.”  Enter the D-Train, Daryl Ward.

Ward launched a deep fly to right field.  I judged it perfectly, but realized at the last second that the ball was going to fall short of the wall.  I grabbed the front railing of the 21 foot high wall to support myself and reached as far as I could.  I was able to make a basket catch on the ball with my arm outstretched as far as it could go.  It was ball #3 of the day.  I was getting ready to label the ball, when with the very next pitch, Ward sent another HR in the exact same spot.  He had hit this ball with more force and it landed three rows behind me.  It hit a chair, which killed the balls’ momentum and sat there in an empty row.  I hopped over three rows and was able to throw my glove over the ball with less than a second to spare.  Amac, a fellow ballhawk, who will probably comment that I robbed him, was after this HR ball and arrived just a split second too late.  I had ball #4 of the day in my mitt.
825 view from RF.jpg

(View from the front row of Section 142, on top of the Right Field Wall)

Batting practice ended soon after, and I went to meet my wife at the Left Field gate.  She had came late, because she had to work late and wasn’t home when I left my house.  We had pretty good seats for this game, (or so we thought) in Section 222 Row K, Seats 1-2 (See view below).  I was hoping to get some foul balls during the game, but all I got was annoyed.

825 our seats.jpg
When we got to our seats
around 6:30, the


was almost

Within fifteen minutes we were surrounded by an annoying old couple to our left, who kept sticking their bony hands in our faces pointing to something over on the right.  Making matter worse was a family of five with two annoying kids who sat directly to our left.  The little brats kept running up and down the stairs.   Around the 3rd or 4th inning, Holly and I got up and watched the middle section of the game on TV from comfortable chairs in the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.  After the Pirates fell behind 10-1, we decided to leave the game early, as we are both starting back to school this week and were really tired from getting up early

The Pirates ended up getting crushed 12-3.  I was happy with 4 balls.  I discussed batting practice with 3 fellow ball hawks on my way to the designated driver booth to sign up for a free drink.  Two of them got shut out, and Amac came away with 1 ball in batting practice.  My day’s work is pictured below.
825 Balls of the day.jpg

Game: 4 Balls
Season: 103 Balls
Career: 141 Balls

Attendance: 14,454 (37.7% full)
linescore 82508.JPG

8-20-08 Progressive Field, Royals @ Indians

This was my first ever trip to Progressive Field in Cleveland OH.
I went with a fellow ballhawk, Amac, who was also making his first
appearance at Progressive. We left around 12:40 and arrived at the
field just before 4. On the way to the park, we stopped at a WalMart
which was a half hour outside of Cleveland to buy some Cleveland gear.
I purchased a Grady Sizemore Indians shirt, along with an Indians hat
and 5 other hats (they were only $3 each). Amac picked up a July 4th Indians shirt, an Indians hat and a small glove so that he could attempt the glove trick.

finding a place to park in Cleveland, which wasn’t that difficult, we
walked around the stadium to find the will call window. (View from outside the gates looking in)

there were 2 windows open, so we were able to pick up our tickets
before the gates opened. The guy at the window got my hopes up by
saying “I see you have some dugout seats here, nice!” He was lying. Our
seats were in Sec 518 Row D. I bought them off of ebay for $9.99 for
the pair. We never even sat in them though, we just needed to get into
the ballpark.

The gates at Progressive Field open at 4:30 on
Monday-Friday, giving fans access to the Right Field seats and Heritage
Park. While we were in line, we scoped out our competition. There were
two old ladies, a “family” of four with two little kids, an
octogenarian with his grandson, and some guy from Kansas City. There
was no competition like at PNC Park. At 4:25, the gates were opened,
and we rushed in.
got my first ball immediately from Shin Shoo Choo in Right Field. I
called out to him, “Could you throw me a ball please?” He happily
obliged. Choo continued to throw balls to about 5 or 6 more fans before
going in to take his round of BP. He was a nice guy. I got my second
from a Anthony Reyes a couple minutes
later. I had called out to him several times, but he acted like he didn’t hear me.  I waited for a ball to roll up to the wall and politely asked
him for it.

The right field and center field seats at
Progressive Field are about 4 feet back from the wall. In between the
wall, there are black boards and a small railing, so doing the glove
trick was impossible. The 80 year old guy that was there with his
grandson told me to get my stuff off the board between the railing and
the wall because the Indians didn’t like fans putting their things on
there. I took it off, but was a bit miffed. Who was this guy to tell me
this, and why didn’t he bother the other people that had their bags on
it? Two minutes later, a long fly ball came towards me and the old man.
It bounced on the warning track and was just about to land in his glove
when I snatched it out of the air before he could get it. I figured it
was fair game. The old man snapped, “You dirty rascal.” It was ball #3.

the Royals came out and took batting practice. I changed into my Royals
shirt and hat. I managed to get ball #4 from Joaquin Soria as he was
walking back from doing his sprint. I had a tough time identifying any of the Royals pitchers except for Soria and Kip Wells because they all had wind breakers on.  So, make sure you print out a photo roster, especially of the pitchers. 

It went cold after that, as I
didn’t get another ball until the end of BP. It came from Royals lefty Josh Newman. I was on the phone, and noticed a ball roll
to the wall. I walked down to the front row with my glove up. He
scanned the crowd, saw my Royals gear, and tossed me ball #5.

practice ended soon afterward, so we walked around the stadium for
awhile. I really liked the stadium, its concourses weren’t crowded, and
there were many great places to eat. We settled on Market Place (I
think it was called that). And got a combo meal for $8.75. For $8.75,
we got a hamburger, fries, and a small drink. It was a great deal
compared to PNC Park.

We also walked over to Heritage park
during this time. Heritage park contains many monuments commemorating
the history and players of the Cleveland Indians. We walked down the
stairs and went to the area closest to center field. In center field,
there are some tall trees (hemlocks?) in a 5 foot space. Behind the
trees is a black wall, serving as the batters eye. I
could see underneath this wall to see the base of the hemlocks. There
was a ball lying there. There was only about a 5 inch space from the
concrete to where this wall started, just big enough to slide an arm
in. I pointed the ball out to Amac, figuring I should give him the
first try, since I had gotten 5 balls and he had only gotten 2. He
tried to reach it, but couldn’t. I gave it a shot since I had longer
arms, and still couldn’t reach it, even with my first baseman’s mitt on
my hand. Then, Amac used the glove that he purchased at Wal-Mart
earlier in the day. He used some string that I gave him to do a
variation of the glove trick. The tossed the glove in and nudged the
ball closer, getting it fairly easily. Two older folks who were
onlooking were very impressed and said, “You should get some kind of
prize for figuring out how to get that!”

There was one other
ball in this section, but it was directly behind the trunk of one of
the hemlocks and it was impossible to get. Amac tried for 10 minutes
but was unsuccessful.

The game was starting soon, so we took a
spot in the left field Toyota Home Run Porch and hung over the rail and
watched the first three innings or so. We
were astonished that the Indians do not throw their warm up balls into
the crowd. They give them back to the bullpen catcher. We were hoping
to get a home run ball, but there was no such luck.

Around the
top of the 5th, we walked along the main concourse, looking for a
distracted usher so we could sneak down. We spotted a female usher who
was playing with a patron’s baby. She was totally distracted, so we
just walked right past her and took a seat in an empty row about 12
rows back of first base. We
stayed in those seats the rest of the game, hoping to get a foul ball.
There were about three that came our way, but none in our section.

game got very interesting in the 8th. The Indians scored 5 runs to take
an 8-5 lead and held on to win. After the game, they announced they
were throwing victory balls into the stands. We raced over behind the
dugout, but they were stupid soft toy baseballs. We waited until many
people left, and then walked through a few rows of the stadium looking
for season tickets. We found 8 Season Tickets that folks had left
behind and a few issues of batter up magazine.

Overall, the game
and batting practice were very rewarding. I will definitely be coming
back to Progressive Field as soon as my schedule permits.

Game: 5 balls
Season: 99 balls
Career: 137 balls

Attendance: 23,920 (55.1% full)
linescore 82008.JPG