Results tagged ‘ Philadelphia Phillies ’

2012 NL East Predictions and Preview

I’ve been posting 2012 MLB Previews for each division throughout the past two weeks.  In case you missed it, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, and AL West preview by clicking on the links provided.

It’s time to move onto the National League.  First up, is the NL East.

I’ve also included 2012 Predicted statistics from the 2012 Major League Baseball Yearbook and Fantasy Guide.

1ST Place:  Philadelphia Phillies (My prediction: 95-67)

This Philadelphia Phillies were the top team in 2011, winning 102 games, before losing in the first round of the playoffs.  Over the past five years, the Phillies have only improved during the regular season, winning 89 games in 2007, then 92, 93, 97, and 102.  However, I am predicting that they regress a little bit in 2012, thanks to a strengthened National League Eastern Division.

The Phillies have one of the best rotations in the game, despite losing Roy Oswalt.

Anchored by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels – the Phillies shouldn’t experience and losing streaks longer than three games.

The Phillies also added Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason to close games out.  Papelbon is one of the top relievers in the game, despite his 2011 finale against the Orioles, where he blew the game and the season for the Red Sox.

The Phillies have a decent offense.  Ryan Howard is coming off of an injury, and had a bit of an offseason in 2011, hitting just .253 with 33 home runs.

Chase Utley has been in decline the past three years, each year worst than the last.  To be fair, he has been riddled with injuries over the past two seasons.  He hit just .259 with 11 homers last season.

I’m not thrilled with Placido Polonco as the Phillies third baseman.  Third base is a power position, and Polonco is a contact hitter.  He hit .277 with 5 HR and 50 RBI last year, along with a .335 on base percentage.

However, the Phillies brought in Ty Wigginton to be a super utility type player, and he could unseat Polonco as the regular starter at third.

Phillies fans have to be upbeat about their outfield.  They have John Mayberry in left field, or possibly Laynce Nix… Shane Victorino in centerfield and Hunter Pence in right field.

For me, I’m most intrigued with Jim Thome signing with the Phillies.  Thome hasn’t played the field much in recent years, but I’m hoping that he gets some time at first base, and isn’t just a pinch-hit only type guy like Matt Stairs was the final few years of his career.

Here’s their 2012 statistical projections.
C Carlos Ruiz .289-6-43
1B Ryan Howard .259-29-98
1B Jim Thome .266-14-43
2B Chase Utley .279-20-74
3B Placido Polanco .284-6-52
3B Ty Wigginton .258-10-34
SS Jimmy Rollins .279-19-74
LF John Mayberry .261-24-77
CF Shane Victorino .272-18-67
RF Hunter Pence .302-23-91

SP Roy Halladay 19-8, 2.42 ERA, 234 IP, 212 K
SP Cliff Lee 19-8, 2.89 ERA, 221 IP, 210 K
SP Cole Hamels 14-10, 3.11 ERA, 191 K
SP Vance Worley 12-8, 3.90 ERA, 135 K
SP Joe Blanton 5-4, 4.66 ERA, 100 IP, 81 K
RP Jonathan Papelbon 3.34 ERA, 30 saves, 65 IP, 80 K
RP Antonio Bastadro 3.43 ERA, 3 saves, 60 IP, 74 K

2nd place:  Atlanta Braves (My prediction 87-75)
The Atlanta Braves are going to battle it out with the Marlins and Nationals all season long for a wild card spot.  For me, the Braves starting rotation gives them a slight edge.

Tim Hudson is 36 years old, but figures to be the ace of the staff, after posting a 16-10 record with a 3.22 ERA in 2011.

The Braves also welcome back Jair Jurrjens in 2011, despite trying to trade him and Martin Prado for most of the offseason.  Jurrjens had a 2.96 ERA last season.

Tommy Hanson began spring training a bit banged up after being in an accident, but his concussion like symptoms should be cleared up by opening day.  Hanson struggled at times in 2011, posting a 3.60 ERA.

Brandon Beachy led the Braves last year with 169 strikeouts, and continues the trend of top to bottom rotational depth on the Braves.

For their fifth starter, the Braves will choose either Julio Teheran or Mike Minor.   With a rotation like they have lined up, its hard not to choose them as second in the division, no matter how much I don’t like them.

Offensively, the Braves have some stars with Brian McCann behind the plate (24 HR in ’11)

and Dan Uggla (36 HR) at second.  Uggla couldn’t hit his weight for much of the season before going on an impressive 33 game hitting streak to salvage his season.

The Braves also have some questions marks.  Will Chipper Jones be able to play regularly at a high level?  He’s 40 years old now, and hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup regularly for two years now.

Will Jason Heyward’s reconstructed swing hasten him back to the days of 2010 when he was a star rookie?  Or will he struggle again like he did in 2011? (.227/14/14)

Will Matt Diaz defy all odds and actually hit a home run?

How will Tyler Pastornicky do?  He could be the team’s opening day shortstop.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Brian McCann .263-22-70
1B Freddie Freeman .296-22-83
2B Dan Uggla .253-36-90
3B Chipper Jones .268-18-67
SS Tyler Pastornicky .256-4-29
LF Martin Prado .271-15-67
CF Michael Bourne .290-2-51
RF Jason Heyward .255-19-66

SP Tim Hudson 17-10, 3.05 ERA, 224 IP, 155 K
SP Jair Jurrjens 15-10, 3.57 ERA, 209 IP, 137 K
SP Tommy Hanson 15-8, 3.82 ERA, 177 IP, 171 K
SP Brandon Beachy 11-8, 3.78 ERA, 179 IP, 187 K
SP Julio Teheran 9-6, 4.01 ERA, 126 IP, 70 K
RP Craig Kimbrel 1.81 ERA, 35 saves, 70 IP, 118 K
RP Jonny Venters 2.35 ERA, 3 saves, 84 IP, 88 K

3rd place: Miami Marlins (My prediction 85-77)

The Marlins went on a spending spree this winter as they move into a new stadium this year.  Despite losing out on the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, they did manage to sign impact free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell.  It’s full steam ahead for the Marlins in 2012.

The Marlins offense looks to be quite good.  They’ve got John Buck, who has power, but struggles to hit for average behind the plate.  He only hit .227 last year.

Gaby Sanchez is a solid first baseman offensively – he hit 19 homers last year.  He’s no Albert Pujols, but he’s respectable.  At least he throws a mean clothesline.  Ask Nyjer Morgan.

Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio could share time at second base in 2012.  Bonifacio could also spend time in the outfield, displacing Chris Coghlan.

Hanley Ramirez will garner some attention as he moves from shortstop to third base.  Ramirez appeared to be upset with the move at first, which was necessitated when the Marlins traded for Reyes.  However, he seems to be warming up to the idea of playing third, and hopefully his bat warms too, because he was bad last year.  The former All Star only hit .243 with 10 homers.

Jose Reyes was the batting champ last year, and probably the third best free agent behind Pujols and Prince Fielder in 2012.  He brings speed and excitement to the Marlins.

The outfield looks solid at the corners with Mike Stanton on track to have another monster year.  He launched 34 home runs in 2011, and figures to hit even more as he continues to age and progress as a player.  He’s only 22 years old after all.

Logan Morrison, known more for his antics off the field with his zany twitter alter-ego LoMo, hopes to make a name for himself on it as well this year.  He did well in 2011, hitting 23 home runs, but saw his average dip to .247.

In center field, Emilio Bonifacion will play, or possibly Chris Coghlan.  Coghlan was injured much of 2011, hitting only .230.  Some would say it’s karma after this incident involving fellow ballhawker the Happy Youngster.  Coghlan went on to win the rookie of the year, while the Happy Youngster got a bad rep and faded away from the ballhawking scene.  Maybe the Youngster makes a comeback in ’12?

As far as their rotation is concerned, the Marlins look like they’ll be decent, but not great.

Josh Johnson is returning from an injury, but has the talent to be a front line starter.  He had a 1.64 ERA in 9 starts before being injured last season.

Mark Buehrle is a proven veteran that is a solid #2 starter.

Behind those two, the Marlins have Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez.  Nothing spectacular, but acceptable as starters.

Interestingly, the Marlins traded for Carlos Zambrano.  After a rocky career in Chicago, things have been quiet so far on the Zambrano front.

At the back of the bullpen, they’ve got Heath Bell to close things out.  Bell had 43 saves for a poor Padres team in 2011, so he could do even better in 2012.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C John Buck .241-17-66
1B Gaby Sanchez .262-18-76
2B Omar Infante .290-10-59
3B Hanley Ramirez .291-22-91
SS Jose Reyes .318-10-52
LF Logan Morrison .250-24-80
CF Emilio Bonifacio .292-4-31
RF Mike Stanton .265-38-97

SP Josh Johnson 14-6, 2.54 ERA, 226 IP, 216 K
SP Mark Buehrle 13-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 103 K
SP Ricky Nolasco 13-12, 4.60 ERA, 205 IP, 168 K
SP Anibal Sanchez 9-10, 3.64 ERA, 180 IP, 169 K
SP Carlos Zambrano 11-10, 4.52 ERA, 163 IP, 120 K
RP Heath Bell 2.64 ERA, 41 saves, 65 IP, 65 K
RP Juan Oviedo 4.00 ERA, 4 saves, 63 IP, 59 K

4th place: Washington Nationals (My prediction: 84-78)
The Nationals are an improved team over last year, they added Edwin Jackson and are getting Stephen Strasburg back from an injury that cost him most of 2011.

The Nationals were unlucky and lost out on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes to Detroit and are stuck with Adam LaRoche as their first baseman.  LaRoche should not get Nationals fans excited.  Based on his track record, he will be abysmal until the All Star break and then recover to finish with a slightly above average line.  I’ve seen it in Pittsburgh.  Us Pirates fans were expecting 40 HR and 100 RBI with the short right field fence, but it never came close to happening with LaRoche.  If LaRoche really bombs in his rebound year from injury, the Nats could put Mike Morse at first base and open up a spot in the outfield for Bryce Harper.

Wilson Ramos, acquired from the Nationals for ex-Pirates reliever Matt Capps survived a harrowing ordeal during the offseason when he was kidnapped at gunpoint and held captive.  Thankfully, he was rescued without injury and looks to follow up a 15 HR, .445 slugging season with another decent offensive showing.

The Nationals have a power source at second base in Danny Espinosa.  He slugged 21 homers last year despite hitting just .236.

Ryan Zimmerman just signed a $100 million dollar contract to keep him in a Nationals uniform til 2020.  That’s a serious commitment to what many in the Nationals brass consider the face of the franchise.  Zimmerman was injured for part of 2011, and hit only 12 homers – but if healthy, he’s capable of putting up 25-30 HR on the board while playing excellent defense.  He’ll want to prove to everyone that he’s worth the $100 million.  Although one baseball writer tweeted, “$100 million is an awful lot for a one time all-star.”

In the outfield, the Nationals are set with Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth.  Werth was terrible in 2011.  He may have hit 20 homers, but Nationals fans expected more power, and certainly better than a .232 batting average and .389 slugging percentage.  Werth was one of the best players in the league before signing with the Nationals.  His statistics took a nosedive once he joined the team.  He is one of several reasons why the Nationals could be the surprise team in 2012.  Can he return to the Werth that roamed the outfield for the Phillies?

Michael Morse is probably my favorite Nationals player.  If you get the chance to go to a Nationals game, simply stand in left center field and get ready to be bombarded with home run balls.  The guy is a monster.  He reminds me a lot of Mike Stanton in terms of body structure and pure power.  After hitting .303/31/95 in 2011, he could be a candidate to hit 40 homers.

A major question in the Nationals outfield leading into 2012 is if Bryce Harper will be the starting right fielder in 2012.  Manager Davey Johnson said the 19 year old has a chance.  If he makes the team, expect the same level of hype to follow Harper around that Stephen Strasburg had back in 2010.

In terms of the rotation, its much improved after the signing of Edwin Jackson to an 11 million dollar one year contract.  Personally, I don’t think much of Jackson after he spurned the Pirates 3 year $30 million offer to accept less money with the Nationals.  He’s an excellent #2 pitcher though.

The ace of the Nationals is Stephen Strasburg and he may be babied again in 2012 as the Nats seem terrified of him getting injured again.  If Strasburg weren’t on strict pitch counts, his strike out numbers could be ridiculous.  However, he still has amazing stuff and should baffle hitters all season long.  He’s a special player.  I’ll never forget attending his major league debut against the Pirates in Washington DC in June of 2010.

The Nationals’ third starter is Gio Gonzalez, the ex-ace of the Oakland Athletics.  He posted a 16-12 record with a 3.12 ERA in the American League last year.  Reason states that his ERA should drop a little since he doesn’t have to face the DH in the National League anymore.

The Nationals rest of the rotation is average.  At the back end they’ve got Drew Storen to close out games, or possibly new addition Brad Lidge.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Wilson Ramos .269-16-55
1B Adam LaRoche .243-14-56
2B Danny Espinosa .258-23-72
3B Ryan Zimmerman .296-24-81
SS Ian Desmond .261-8-51
LF Michael Morse .300-30-90
CF Roger Bernadina .238-7-30
RF Jayson Werth .245-20-64

SP Stephen Strasburg 13-6, 2.40 ERA, 139 IP, 151 K
SP Gio Gonzalez 16-11, 3.25 ERA, 211 IP, 208 K
SP Jordan Zimmerman 10-19, 4.33 ERA, 141 IP, 102 K
SP Edwin Jackson 13-9, 3.95 ERA, 203 IP, 156 K
SP John Lannan 12-11, 4.01 ERA, 191 IP, 117 K
SP Chien Ming Wang 9-7, 3.83 ERA, 125 IP, 47
RP Drew Storen 3.01 ERA, 38 saves, 81 IP, 81 K
RP Tyler Clippard 2.34 ERA, 0 saves, 85 IP, 100 K

5th place:  New York Mets (My prediction 62-100)
The Mets are going to be bad in 2012.  They are slashing payroll left and right, and might deal David Wright at the trade deadline this year.

Am I wrong Mets fans?  I think they’ll lose 100 games.  The division is tough, and they are worse than last year.

David Wright is the long bright spot, but there’s really no one to protect him in the order.

Ike Davis has some pop, but will be be consistent throughout the season?

Then there’s Jason Bay, one of the biggest free agent busts since Barry Zito.  After signing a $66 million contract, Bay has done next to nothing.  Maybe moving the fences in at Citi Field will help him some.

Andres Torres, a 4th or 5th outfielder on just about every other team, will be the starting center fielder.

Ruben Tejada is no Jose Reyes at shortstop.  He has no power, but can hit for an acceptable average near .300.

The rotation pales in comparison to the other four teams in the division.  Johan Santana will finally be back after missing an eternity due to injury.  If he’s half the pitcher he used to be, he’ll still be the best pitcher on the Mets.

It’s going to be a long year.  At least watching RA Dickeys facial expressions and knuckleball should be fun.

2012 Statistical Projections:

C Josh Thole .273-4-46
1B Ike Davis .260-20-73
2B Daniel Murphy .318-8-66
3B David Wright .269-20-87
SS Ruben Tejada .288-0-60
LF Jason Bay .252-16-76
CF Andres Torres .237-6-27
RF Lucas Duda .301-13-61

SP Johan Santana 12-7, 2.84 ERA, 162 IP, 142 K
SP Mike Pelfrey 11-11, 4.39 ERA, 193 IP, 106 K
SP Jonathon Niese 10-11, 4.43 ERA, 167 IP, 146 K
SP Dillon Gee 12-10, 4.79 ERA, 179 IP, 134 K
SP RA Dickey 9-12, 3.13 ERA, 201 IP, 125 K
RP Frank Francisco 3.33 ERA, 28 saves, 51 IP, 55 K
RP Jon Rauch 4.05 ERA, 5 saves, 53 IP, 39 K

So, to review,  I have:
1) Phillies
2) Braves
3) Marlins
4) Nationals
5) Mets

I think the Braves, Marlins, and Nationals could be pretty much interchangeable though, as they are all similar in talent level.

What are your thoughts?

Leave a comment!

There’s only 37 days until opening day, and 4 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). Also, the first listed Spring Training game on the MLB schedule is tomorrow when the Phillies take on the Seminoles. Also, just five more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.

Philadelphia Phillies Shirt Giveaway

This week’s giveaway is a Philadelphia Phillies T-Shirt.  It is the fourth in a series of weekly giveaways leading up to opening day.  I’ve been posting everyday (30 consecutive so far) leading up to opening day, and giving stuff away to thank my readers.

To date,
I’ve given away a Matt Wieters shirt to Joey Orr,
a Brandon Phillips shirt to Matt Jackson,
and a Dustin Pedroia shirt to Stephen D.

The shirt(s) I’m giving away this week are…

A Ryan Howard Nike shirt.

This shirt not only is very colorful, but also is the perfect shirt to wear when sitting near the Phillies dugout.  Ryan Howard will probably end up with the third out ball in about half of the innings.  Simply stand up in this shirt and raise your glove.  He’ll see the shirt and have to hook you up.

I’m also giving away this Philadelphia Phillies shirt:

It features the ‘classic print’ design, which is one of my favorite Majestic shirts designs.

Or, how about a Roy Halladay shirt?

That’s right, it says Doc-tober, and I think you can figure out why.

How about a clever Hunter Pence shirt?

Get it?  Pence-ylvania… Pennsylvania.

The winner of this weeks entry gets their choice of any of those four shirts.  I can get you pretty much any size you want, as the local sports store has many different sizes in stock.

I post blog entries every day.  All you have to do is leave a comment or retweet my blog link on twitter.

So, again,  to enter:
1)  Leave a comment.
You can enter up to seven times per week simply by leaving a comment.  Non-pertinent, spam, or inappropriate comments will not be accepted.  If you comment multiple times on the same blog entry, it still counts as one entry.  For example, if you commented on three different blog posts from this week, you’d have three entries.  If you’d comment three times on the same blog posting, it would could as one.

2)  Retweet (RT) my posts on Twitter
You can find me on twitter under 333greystreet.  Simply retweet my daily posts of my blog link and I’ll count that as an entry.  My blog is connected to my twitter so that I automatically tweet once I post a new entry.  Each day, I’ll search who’s retweeted me and enter those users into a hat along with the commenters.  By the way, you do not need to retweet my every tweet, only the tweets that announce a new blog post and url.  For example, if I tweeted, ‘Rerun of the Pirates Opening Day 2011 on tonight,’ if you retweeted it, it wouldn’t count as an entry.

At the end of the week on Sunday, I’ll have Olivia, Amy or I will choose a name from a hat and announce the winner.

Also, I’ve decided to giveaway more shirts this week based on the performance of my blog.  For each day that my blog gets over 1,000 views, I’ll choose another Phillies shirt winner at the end of this week.  So, I could possibly be giving away seven Phillies shirts this week.

Why spend $25 in a store or $15 on ebay when you can get them for free here?

Since my blog began in 2008, I’ve had four days that I’ve had over 1,000 views, with my busiest day coming back in April 2011 when I had 11,441 views.

That’s because of THIS VIDEO that I shot.

So far this month, I’ve had a few days where I’ve been between 600-700 views, but haven’t been able to break that elusive 1,000 barrier in a day yet this year.

Maybe all of the Phillies fans out there will change that.  Maybe a Phillies player will tweet this giveaway to Phillies fans and make me honor my offer and give away a bunch of shirts.  I hope so.

Anyhow, my question is, in an NL East consisting of the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Nationals, and Mets, where do you think the Phillies will finish?

If you have them finishing first?  How far do you think they go in the playoffs?  If they’re not winning their division, who is?

I think the Phillies are too good of a team to not win the division.  The Marlins and Nationals are much improved and will be major players this year, so I don’t think the Phillies will win 102 games again this year, but they’ll be in the mid 90’s and well on their way to another shot at the World Series.

There’s only 45 days until opening day, and 12 days the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies).

6-4-11 PNC Park

Amy and I spent the afternoon being shown a couple houses by a realtor and then headed to PNC Park.

Today was a Fireworks night, and the Phillies were in town.  AND it was the largest crowd ever recorded in PNC Park history.  That doesn’t make a good ballhawking environment.

When I ran in, there were no balls to be found, perhaps because batting practice got started a little later than usual because of this:

Fan-photo day with the players on Federal Street from 3-4 pm.

Immediately upon entering, Kevin Correia tossed me a ball to put me on the board.

I would go the next thirty minutes without snagging anything.  The home runs that were hit, were over my head and were gobbled up by other fans.  Eventually, a fan in the front row misplayed a home run ball.  The ball hit his glove square and fell back onto the field.  It was an easy glove trick opportunity.  I asked the fan, who was maybe 14, if he wanted me to get the ball for him.  He said yes, so I glove tricked it, and handed over ball #2.

It turned out to bring some good karma, because I snagged two more balls within the next minute.  One was a clean catch of a Matt Diaz home run ball here:

And another was a Chris Snyder bomb that sailed between the rotunda and upper bleachers and bounced into a concession stand, where it was thrown to me by a worker.

At the end of the Pirates BP, I was flat out robbed by a Phillies fan.  Daniel McCutchen looked directly at me and tossed me a ball.  This guy in Phillies gear, who the ball was clearly NOT intended for, quickly reached in front of my glove and intercepted it.

My fifth ball was glove tricked here during the Phillies BP,

and I glove tricked another near the end of the BP over along the left field foul line.   That was it for today.

There wasn’t much point of trying for home run balls unless they were right at me or toss ups.  Here was my view for the last 45 minutes or so of batting practice:

After batting practice, I left, went to the gym.

Here are today’s baseballs (five pictured because one was given away):

Sweet spots:

STATISTICS:
Game:  6 balls (1 hit, 2 thrown, 3 device)
Season:  173 balls (66 hit, 39 thrown, 45 device, 23 found)
Games: 28 games
Average:  6.18 balls per game
Career:  1,295 balls
Attendance: 39,441

6-3-11 PNC Park

It’s been about 10 days since my last game.  I’ve cut down on the road trips since last year, as an average trip to Cleveland costs $75 a game, and a trip to Washington or Baltimore averages about $100 a game in gas and tolls.  It wasn’t worth it to me.

Amy and I have spent the last ten days scouring the housing market.  I’ve decided that I want to have a nice house for my baby daughter (due in August) to grow up in.  Our current one bed room apartment just isn’t cutting it.

Amy and I have been putting together lists, driving around, and scratching off 80% of the houses we drive by.  We’ve toured six solid contenders so far, and are looking at houses in the $150,000-$200,000 range.  All of the ones we like are 200k, which is a huge commitment.  So, as you can see,  at least for the time being, I would rather spend my money on a house than ballhawking trips as I have in the past.

Anyhow, my first two balls of the day came from Brandon Wood.  The first one was thrown to me from left field, but fell well short.  The ball rested on the warning track, where I glove tricked it for ball #1.

I usually do not use my glove trick during the Pirates batting practice.  I figure that if I am seen using the glove trick it will make the Pirates pitchers less likely to want to toss me a ball.  However, since many of the Pirates pitchers seem to dislike the fact that I am there every game, I just went for it.

Wood did not see me use the glove trick, and turned and threw a perfect strike to me for ball #2 at the end of the Pirates batting practice.

My third ball was glove tricked during the Phillies BP in left field, and my fourth ball was a clean catch of a home run here:

My fifth and final ball was glove tricked in right field.

It wasn’t any usual glove trick.  It was the first time I ever glove tricked a ball from a top the Clemente wall.

I spent the last twenty minutes in left field, but didn’t get anything.  It was just too crowded.

Here are today’s baseballs:

Sweet spots:

STATISTICS:
Game:  5 balls (1 hit, 1 thrown, 3 device)
Season:  167 balls (64 hit, 38 thrown, 41 device, 23 found)
Games: 27 games
Average:  6.19 balls per game
Career:  1,289 balls
Attendance: 33,861

Spring Training Day 1

For the fifth year in a row, I decided to make the trek to Spring Training in Florida.  However, this year, I would travel with my girlfriend Amy instead of my dad, who is recovering from surgery.

There was some early airport drama, where we arrived at the security checkpoint 12 minutes prior to the boarding of our plane due to flooding of rivers in Pittsburgh which led to the closing of 376 west, the highway that leads us to the airport.  However, Amy did some smooth talking to a TSA agent and got us moved to the front of a lengthy security line, and we arrived at our gate just as the plane began boarding.

We arrived in Tampa at 10:30 and awaited our first spring training game the next day.

We arrived at McKechnie Field bright and early at 9AM and took the obligatory picture in front of the stadium:
100_7419.JPG
And in front of a Spring Training sign posted there:
100_7423.JPGAfter taking several more photos, we walked around to the back of McKechnie Field, where I would do my ballhawking for the day.

Here’s the entrance to the area behind the fence:
100_7425.JPG
The building that you see there to the left is a Boys’ and Girls’ Club that was closed since it was a weekend. 

We actually got there too early, as the cage wasn’t even up yet,
100_7429.JPG
and the players were just starting to stretch
100_7427.JPG
and have a meeting in the outfield.
100_7428.JPG
Batting practice wouldn’t even get started until about an hour later around 10AM, as the players would do some baserunning drills and infield work first.

That left us ample time to explore the area behind the outfield wall.  There were a few changes from last year in the area behind the fence.

First, there were a bunch of picnic tables installed, which would lead to crazy bounces and limited range if a ball hit in that area.
100_7431.JPG
Second, the garage where two mechanics used to work on cars had apparently been bought out by the Boys and Girls Club, as evidenced by the logo on the side of the building.  This would lead to decreased competition, as the mechanics would typically try and compete for baseballs and subsequently sell them for $3 each at their garage.
100_7433.JPG
Finally, an orange fence was installed to protect bus windows from being shattered by baseballs, and a basketball hoop had been erected in the area.
100_7435.JPG
We made our way behind the old garage,
100_7437.JPG
and over to the area behind the batter’s eye in center field. 
100_7438.JPG
All the while, I was keeping an eye out for easter eggs, but there were none. 

In the area behind the wall in right center field, there is a small practice field. 

After a while, Pirates pitchers came out to do some PFP, Pitcher’s Fielding Practice.    Working with pitching coach Ray Searage, the pitchers first worked on taking grounders and making a throw to second base. 
100_7476.JPG
Then, they fielded bunts and threw the balls to third base. 
100_7482.JPG
Finally, the pitchers took line drive comebackers.  The players appeared to be having fun, but none as much as Searage who was extremely cheery and enthusiastic.&nbs
p;

This was my view from the security fence.  I didn’t bother any of the players by calling out to them or getting their attention, I just stood and watched. 
DSC00320.JPG
My girlfriend took a video, about halfway through or so, Evan Meek recognizes me and waves to me.  You’ll also see Joel Hanrahan say hello to me.  Both of the pitchers were very kind to me at batting practice and have had conversations with me on several occasions.

Check it out in Amy’s video:

There still wasn’t much going on, so I took a video of the area behind McKechnie Field.

Check it out:

Batting practice wouldn’t start for another 30 minutes or so, and the waiting took forever.  There was a lot of standing around.
100_7467.JPGFollowed by some pacing.
100_7469.JPG
It allowed Amy to take some random photos, such as this one of a squirrel:
100_7460.JPG
Or this one of an inch worm.
100_7463.JPG
When batting practice finally got underway, it was more of the same.  Standing around.
100_7485.JPG
And pacing.
100_7495.JPG
And kneeling.
100_7501.JPG
At McKechnie Field, you can’t see the ball until its about to leave the field.  I absolutely hate it.  It’s very tedious.  Imagine doing that for two hours.  I was kind of frustrated with the whole process, but I had my girl there to keep me calm.

There were only two competitors there with me.  A man in a Barry Bonds shirt,
100_7502.JPG
and his friend. 
100_7503.JPG
The two worked as a team.  Later, they would be seen selling the balls on the street as we exited the stadium.

They stayed close to the secondary fence and had that whole area covered thanks to a 20 foot long ball retrieving device:
100_7515.JPG
Since they played up, I waited back for any balls that would clear both fences.  Unfortunately, there was NO wind at all today, so most fly balls died in left field before even reaching the fence. 

I did get my first ball of the day near the end of the Pirates’ batting practice.  Amy spotted it first and shouted “Erik! Erik! Erik!” and pointed towards the building.  A ball had landed on the roof.   
100_7493.JPG
It rolled off the roof and I raced over to scoop it up before ballhawk #2 could get there.

We had arrived at the stadium almost 2 hours ago, and I finally had a baseball to show for it.
100_7492.JPG
I wouldn’t have gotten that one had it not been for Amy’s heads up.
100_7507.JPG
The Phillies than came out to hit.

Their session was ama
zingly disappointing.  Since the Phillies had a split squad today, they brought all of their scrubs, and very few home runs were hit.  

To pass the time, the guy in the Barry Bonds shirt offered to play catch with me.

It was much better than standing idly, so we began to throw:
DSC00358.JPG
We caught for about 10 minutes.
DSC00353.JPG
This was all during Phillies’ BP.  That’s how dead it was.

Near the end of the Phillies’ BP, a batter crushed a home run that bounced on the pavement and into the cypress tree moss above.  I crouched down and used my glove to snag it on the bounce.
100_7517.JPGMoments later, presumably the same batter struck again and ripped a home run that landed in the same place as ball #1, on the roof.  I raced over and grabbed ball #3.

That would be all that I would get today.    Three balls.  I had fun with Amy, but I really disliked ballhawking in this venue.  Not being able to see anything takes away a lot of the fun and skill needed.  Despite having tickets to tomorrow’s Red Sox / Pirates game, I vowed not to return to McKechnie to ballhawk again.

We entered the stadium and snapped a picture in front of the field:
DSC00370.JPGThe game itself was a blow out, as the Phillies sprang out to an 8-0 lead.

Some pictures from the game:

The field from our seats, in Sec 8, Row 1.
100_7522.JPG
Ahead of us was Pirates president Frank Coonelly who looked visibly agitated at the amount of runs given up, as well as four misplayed balls by outfielders during the first three innings. 
100_7533.JPG
100_7545.JPGI really like Ross Ohlendorf, but he didn’t have his best stuff today, and four missed catch-able balls by outfielders didn’t help his cause.  Keep your head up Ross.  That’s what Spring Training is for.
100_7523.JPG
Pedro Alvarez has put on some weight and his range looks very limited, but I only saw two balls hit to him that he didn’t get to, so I’ll have to see a larger sample size to say for certain if he’ll be a liablilty at third.
100_7524.JPG
Lyle Overbay, the Pirates new first baseman.  Hopefully he brings a line of .275-20-85 this year at least.  We’ll see.
100_7525.JPGThe Phillies didn’t bring many of their regulars, but at least Ryan Howard was there. 
100_7527.JPG
Ryan Howard at bat:

Pedro Alvarez digs in.  I’m hoping for 35 home runs from Pedro this year, but I fear it may come with a .240 average and lots of strike outs.  He’s still young though. 
100_7539.JPGNeil Walker, the Pirates’ second baseman at the plate:
100_7547.JPG
And finally a panorama of McKechnie Field from our seats:
100_7550.JPG
We left after a few inning
s to go enjoy ourselves in Florida.

We headed to the beach.
DSC00377.JPG
There weren’t too many people there.
DSC00378.JPG
We went for a long walk.  And found lots of sea shells.
DSC00388.JPGWe eventually came to parts of the beach where there weren’t any people around.  So we went exploring.
DSC00389.JPG
The second best highlight of going back there was finding a Sting Ray skeleton.  Check it out:
DSC00422.JPG
We found it here:

Sex on the beach spotAfter about ten minutes in the brush we emerged and saw this sign: 
DSC00423.JPG
We would go on to find about three other small sting rays that had washed ashore.

Soon, the sun began to set, and it got cold.
DSC00451.JPG
We decided to call it a day soon.
DSC00442.JPG
But not before snapping a few pictures of the sunset and taking a video or two.

Sunset on the beach:

It was a great first day in Florida.
DSC00470.JPG
Check back for Spring Training Day 2.

10-10-10 Great American Ballpark

I came into today needing just six baseballs to break the single season record of 543 baseballs snagging in one season.  After a dismal performance at my last game on September 29th, I was determined to bounce back.

Amy and I arrived at Cincinnati around 3PM, in plenty of time before the 5:07 gate time.
100_4561.jpgWe parked a ways a way and made the walk along the Ohio River, but had fun goofing around on the way to the stadium:
Amy was along to keep me company and take pictures to document today’s possibly record setting game.

Coming into the game, I needed six balls to break the all time single season record of 543 set by Zack Hample in 2008.

We killed some time before the gates opened by walking around Great American Ballpark, including wandering around the team store.

Here we are outside of the main gates:
I was able to secure a ticket through my Baker’s Dozen Partial season ticket plan.  Since I only had one seat in the plan, we went to Cincinnati hoping to buy an extra ticket for Amy.  Since the game was sold out, we had to turn to scalpers.  The cheapest ticket available was $250, and Amy refused to let me pay that.  She insisted on sitting outside Great American Ballpark while I went in and did my thing.  I reluctantly agreed and rushed inside when the gates opened.

Upon entering the stadium, the Reds were warming up.

Including Aroldis Chapman, the 105 mph throwing rookie.

I tried to get one of them to toss me a ball but failed.  And since BP was getting underway, I darted out to the left field seats to get to work.

There, I caught ball #1 on the fly off the bat of catcher Corky Miller here:

I was to chase down my second ball soon after as it rattled around a seat in the same general area.

I used the Cleveland stick to prod a ball on the batter’s eye close enough to reach for ball #3.

And returned to left field to snag a Jonny Gomes home run here:

That was the last ball I got during the Reds portion, and the seats were really starting to fill up when the Phillies came to bat.

After getting shut out by the first group, I headed over to right center field in hopes of snagging a Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard or Chase Utley home run ball to tie the single season record.  It happened, and I happened to be video taping when it did.  The ball hit behind me and ricocheted down towards me, and I was able to smother it just as several other fans reached for it.  Here’s the video evidence!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTdHPeEtoug

So, at the very least, I would finish the 2010 season tied for the single season record.

In the meantime, I didn’t get anything else from that group, and my hope rested on the final group of bench players.  Since they were mostly right handed, I headed back to left field.

That’s when this guy:

I don’t know who:

Launched a deep fly ball.  It was going over my head, so I started running up the stairs in the open aisle.  I was able to make the catch as I headed up the stairs in a reaching back hand fashion.  It was a great catch, and it set the single season record at 544 balls in a single season!

After making the catch, I asked a nearby fan to take a photo for me with the ball.

I left after batting practice to meet Amy, I didn’t want her to be alone for too long.  I showed her the record setting ball:

She was really happy for me:

Re-enactment of the catch of 544:

It was getting late, so I bid farewell to Great American Ballpark,
100_4715.JPG
and the 2010 season, as this was my final game.
100_4731.JPG
Today’s baseballs:
100_4831.JPG
Sweet spots:
100_4830.JPG
STATISTICS:
Game:  6 balls (5 hit, 1 device)
Season:  544 balls (261 hit, 131 thrown, 75 device, 77 found)
Games: 88 games
Average:  6.18 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 6
Career:  1,122 balls
Attendance: 44,599

7-3-10 PNC Park

I had seriously considered going to Cleveland today rather than dealing with the sellout crowd at PNC Park.  However, I decided I just didn’t feel like driving four hours round trip for the fourth day in a week.

So, I gave PNC Park another try.  One small thing going in my favor would be that the gates would open at 4:30 today, as is the PNC Park policy for Saturday games.

Upon entering, batting practice hadn’t yet begun and the pitchers were throwing in left field.

Evan Meek noticed Nick and I hustling around looking for easter eggs and shouted, there’s one up there, gesturing towards the upper general admission bleachers.

After a lengthy search, no ball would be found.

After batting practice finally began, I would get ball #1 tossed to me by Pirates starting pitcher Brad Lincoln.
100_3429.JPG
During the second group of Pirates hitters, I would snag a Garrett Jones home run in left field.  It was an opposite field shot that was a row in front of me, and I ended up trapping the ball against the bleacher on a short hop here:
100_3430.JPGI do believe that I will attend over 85 games, but so will Nick Pelescak, so the question may end up being who attends more?

As for the Total Balls in one season – its too early to tell if I’ll be able to continue to average over 6 balls per game.

I won’t be in action on July 4th, but have several trips lined up for next week.

7-2-10 PNC Park

Another day at PNC Park, and another crowd of Phillies fans to deal with throughout batting practice.

Luckily, PNC Park has season ticket holder early entrance, where the season ticket holders get thirty minutes of BP without the general public.  That would be huge for me today, as all four of my baseballs would come during the first thirty minutes.

I was second in line behind Nick Pelescak, so I knew that I probably would be second into the bleachers, putting me at a slight disadvantage for grabbing easter eggs.  However, Nick brought a curse on himself about two minutes before the gates opened by accidentally touching a cursed baseball.

The baseball in question is brought by a semi regular man who is disabled and can’t speak, but loves to play catch with a minor league baseball.  I played catch with him last year and had a ridiculously awful game.  The only explanation was that I had touched that baseball.  I thought to myself, “That ball is cursed,”  and haven’t touched it since.  Whenever he gestures to toss me the ball, I make a frown and wave him off.

After watching Nick have some terrible luck on Thursday, I realized that he had played catch with Baseball Joe in line.  I warned him later on that night to stay away from the cursed baseball.

Well, Nick was handed the ball by another ballhawk and immediately realized that he was again, cursed.

Two minutes later the gates opened, and for the first time ever, Nick’s ticket wouldn’t scan.  Also, out of nowhere, another ticket scanner appeared and scanned my ticket, thus I bypassed Nick and was first into the bleachers.  The curse of Baseball Joe.  His misfortune was my luck, I found ball #1 laying in the front row.

My second ball came about two minutes later off the bat of Jose Tabata.  It was a home run that would’ve landed in the first or second row.  Two other ballhawks had the position and were lined up to make the catch.  I was in the third row, hoping that the ball would continue to carry, but it didn’t.  At the last second, both ballhawks who were positioned to make the catch had to bail on their position because they lost the ball in the ridiculously bright sun.
100_3424.JPG
I never lost sight of the ball, and made an outstretched basket catch, for ball #2 here:
100_3421.JPG
STATISTICS:
Game:  4 balls (3 hit, 1 found)
Season:  276 balls (149 hit, 64 thrown, 26 device, 38 found)
Games: 43 games
Average:  6.42 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career:  854 balls
Streak:  139 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance: 30,339

7-1-10 PNC Park

The Phillies were in town today for game 1 of a four game series.  Unfortunately for me, their fans travel well, and many arrived early for batting practice.

To make matters worse, the security ticket scanner, who only permits season ticket holders into the left field bleachers wasn’t at his post.  In fact, he didn’t show up until 5:11, allowing a steady stream of Phillies fans and non season ticket holders to stroll on in and crowd up the bleachers.
100_3410.JPG
I got my first ball during the Pirates’ first group off the bat of Delwyn Young.  He hit a ball that landed in the section directly next to the foul pole.  I ran over as three other folks converged towards the back of the section where the ball had landed. 

I realized though that the ball was rolling down towards the front row, so I quickly reversed course and ran down to the front row, where I picked up ball #1.

My second ball came from the next Pirates’ group and off the bat of Lastings Milledge.

The ball bounced off the concrete and took a hop up into the rotunda.  Several folks were frantically looking around, their heads swiveling hoping to pick up the ball.  I knew exactly where it was.  It had gotten caught up on the rotunda.  I took off and ran up the lower ring of the Rotunda, and there it was:
66347584746783 (1).jpg
STATISTICS:

Game:  4 balls (3 hit, 1 found)
Season:  272 balls (146 hit, 64 thrown, 26 device, 37 found)
Games: 42 games
Average:  6.48 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career:  850 balls
Streak:  138 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance: 25,323

8-27-09 PNC Park

I was late to this game due to a prior commitment.  By the time I got to the gate, the line had swelled to the back of the Clemente Bridge.  The Pirates only employ one ticket scanner for the first half hour, so this was going to take forever to get into the stadium.
photo(355).jpg
I stood in line impatiently until 5:02, thinking about all of the missed opportunities.  I then remembered the Trib Total Media Hall of Fame club entrance.  Its the team’s restaurant entrance, and it opens at 5.  I hurried over to the Hall of Fame Club entrance, and there was no line.  I immediately had my ticket scanned, grabbed a t-shirt (It was a T-shirt Thursday), hopped on the elevator, and hustled through the restaurant to the stairway that led down to left field.  I was able to make it into the bleachers by 5:06.

I got ball #1 from Pirates reliever Chris Bootcheck.  A ball rolled to the wall, and I moved down to the front row, and put in a polite request.  Chris turned and threw me the ball.  I was on the board.

There was only one right handed batter in the Pirates’ last BP group – Brian Bixler, and I would have to wait for the Phillies to come out and hit to get some more baseballs.

Yesterday, the first group was all right handed batters, and it was an amazing round of non stop home runs.  However, today, there were three lefties in the first group, thereby cutting down on hit ball opportunities.

I caught ball #2 off the bat of Jason Werth.  I had moved back two rows from where I usually stand, since Werth hits for decent power.  He hit a home run into section 136.  I ranged to my right.  The ball was just out of the reach of another ballhawk, and I was able to make the grab.

When a left handed batter came up to hit, I noticed that Matt Stairs was coming over to the left field corner to pick up three baseballs.  I went down to the front row and asked Matt for a ball.  He hooked me up with ball #3.  He also tossed the other two balls into the stands.  What a good guy.

Soon, I noticed a gap shot that rolled to the 410 sign in left center field near the bullpen.  Cole Hamels was making his way over to pick the ball up, but another ball was hit at him, causing him to momentarily forget about picking up the ball at the base of the wall.  I quickly went over and glove tricked the ball, for ball #4 of the day.

Ball #5 was a home run that landed in the section near the foul pole.  I ran over and picked the ball up off of the ground.  It had bounced back towards the field, hit a bleacher, and began rolling right towards me.  I have no idea who hit it.

Pedro Feliz provided me with ball #6.  He hit a home run right at me that I snagged on the fly.

It was now 5:30, and season ticket holder time was ending.  The first 30 minutes of batting practice is much easier to get baseballs, because there is virtually no one there.  At 5:30, a throng of fans sporting Phillies gear descended upon the bleacher area.  I decided that I was going to leave the area and head over to right field.
photo(357).jpg
I boxed out another fan in pursuit and picked up ball #7 of the day, #500 of my career.  Not exactly the greatest way to snag a milestone ball, but I got the job done.

About half way through this year I had set career ball #500 as a
secondary goal to snagging 300 in 2009.  With these goals met, I could
probably make these my two new goals:
1) Snag 63 balls in September, so as to get to 400 balls in 2009.
2) Snag career ball #1,000 before the end of next season (2010).

A few rounds later, I would go on to catch ball #8, a line drive that found its way directly to me.  I made the two handed catch and got a nice little round of applause from a group of Phillies fans sitting behind me.

I stayed on the right field wall for the third group, which included Matt Stairs, but got shut out for the round.  Stairs hit two balls directly at me, but they completely cleared the right field wall, and ended up floating in the Allegheny River.

For the Phillies’ final batting practice group, I headed back over to left field.  It was packed.
photo(364).jpg
I wouldn’t be able to have much range at all.  Predictably, I wasn’t able to catch any home runs, as there were maybe three hit during the round, and none of them were in my vicinity.

I did manage to get ball #9 from Cole Hamels. 
photo(358).jpg
Hamels tossed a ball to some Phillies fans in the front row.  The ball went between them and literally fell right into my glove.

Batting practice then ended, and I was stuck on nine balls.  I needed to get one more.    Double digit games are rare, and this would be my sixth career game snagging 10 or more balls if I could somehow just snag one more.

Then, I saw it.  A ball had been left on the warning track in center field.  An easy glove trick job and I would have 10 balls on the day.  I made my way over, but there was some new female usher that told me I wasn’t allowed to be in the section without a ticket.  Realizing arguing would get my no where, I decided to let that ball go.  There was another ball that had been eating away at me for some time.

It’s been there at least a month.  A ball has been tucked in the far corner on top of a concession building in the outfield concourse.
ballsy.jpg
I had decided that I was going to snag that ball today, as I didn’t want to let any more time pass, as the ball was likely deteriorating as time went by.

I had placed a cup at the end of my river device, which is a ten foot pole.  I climbed up the stairs, looked on top of the roof, and stretched out the pole to the maximum length.  However, I was coming up just short of being able to reach the ball.  Frustrated and feeling my opportunity get away, I stood on the railing to try and reach the ball.  Then, the cup fell out.  I was screwed. 

I walked down to the concourse, collected my thoughts, and …
photo(360).jpg
got the ball.  At my descretion, I’ve chosen not to reveal the details, but I’ve got a witness in my friend Nick.  The ball will count as an easter egg – which will count as a hit ball.  The ball ended up not being a device ball after all.

My arms got filthy from this snag.  Also notice that the ball had started to detiorate a little bit.  The leather had dried out signicantly, and it was also faded a bit.  It didn’t matter, it was ball #10.

Today’s baseballs:
photo(363).jpg
Sweet spots:
photo(362).jpg

STATISTICS:
Game:  10 balls (6 hit, 3 thrown, 1 device)
Season:  337 balls (178 hit, 99 thrown, 60 device)
Games: 69 games (7 of which didn’t have BP)
Average:  4.88 balls per game
Career:  503 balls
Career Double Digit Games: 6
Streak:  84 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance:  24,470

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 130 other followers