I went to this game, my 42nd of the season by myself again, and got a ticket from Stubhub to attend this game. I arrived a little later than normal on my Saturday routine but somehow I was first in line. I guess others wanted to hit the Pitt football game before they came to PNC.
Instead of stretching, I sat back and enjoyed myself until Erik and Jim showed up. Then I got up, did a brief stretch and then left with Erik to start throwing. For some reason, my arm was still out from yesterday, so I was feeling it when I was throwing. I have no idea why my body felt this way, as even with a ton of throwing, I am always fine, but I felt it when I threw. That did not affect how far I could throw it, but it was not the best feeling in the world. Still, I was able to catch better than I ever had outside of the ballpark and it was fun to do.
I then took my spot of first in line. It rained for a little while, and I thought that BP would be cancelled considering the grounds crew, but BP was still on. With that, I then went into the ballpark looking for easter eggs. I searched the lower level first and had to race against Erik and Nick. I found nothing in the lower level, and then went up to the second deck where I saw two. Nick was closer to the one, and after a quick look he left. I really thought at the end, I saw a ball so I went over and looked, and sure enough the ball was there for ball number one. I was quite surprised the ushers did not tamper with these two.
I stayed in left field for a while longer and when I did, a funny thing happened. A homer was hit into a section, and I had a short run, and hopped the little barrier, as it was intended for people who use a wheelchair. Being left-handed was a disadvantage here and Nick and I arrived at the same time, and being right-handed, he had a better play on it and got it. I tried to hop the same barricade again, but when I did, I knew something didn’t go right. I was going to come up a bit short on my landing. My landing was important, because if I failed I could have sidelined myself for the rest of the season. My fall was not graceful as it looked like I flailed on a push up and thus my arms and toes hit first. Before I could check to see if I was ok, I jumped right back up and went for the next ball. I did a quick walking/running test and I was fine, and my big toe ended up hurting for only a few minutes. I could deal with that as it could have been a LOT worse, so I had a laugh at my own expense and moved on.
Speaking of moving, during this time, I decided to go up the escalators to see who would be in right field. No one followed me, and I would be the first one down to the first base side. I was all by my lonesome.
There were no easter eggs over there, but there was Tony Watson, who has thrown me a baseball each time I went over there with the exception being the week where that Texas fan killed himself by trying to go for a baseball.
The moved paid off, as I let the guys do their thing, and a few minutes later Watson was looking at me and tossed me the ball for my second baseball on the day.
I placed it in my pocket, and no more than thirty seconds later, I heard Watson warn me, “look out!” I already knew the ball was coming though, and was going for the catch, but being that I was in the wheelchair section, I ran into a chair, and could not get the glove on it. Still the ball, which was hit by Pedro Ciriaco stayed in the section where I got an easy ball number three.
I had a little time up before Ciriaco came up, and I got ready. He hit another ball to my general territory, but it was a section above and I had no play on it, so I prayed it would not bounce onto the field. I got a break as it hit the steps leading to the section I was in and it rolled down. A good break, as I snagged it for ball number four.
Nothing else was hit my way during Pirates BP, and surprisingly they were hitting some homers, so left field was actually a hot spot today.
As the Pirates were wrapping up BP, the Marlins pitchers and Mike Cameron/Mike Stanton came out. I was still all by my lonesome so, I had no idea what to expect, especially since I left my Pirates gear on.
The following is the conversation that occurred between Marlins relievers Ryan Webb, Burke Badenhop and myself.
Webb: “Hey what’s going on man?”
Me: “Not much how are you?”
Webb: “I’m doing well.”
Badenhop: “What made you decide to come over here?”
Me: “Well, honestly, I am a season ticket holder and when us season tickets come in, they confine us to left field, so Saturday is my day to explore and I usually come over here because there are fewer people and I can interact with both teams.”
Badenhop: “Really? That’s cool. What time do the gates open here?”
Me: “Well on weekdays, they open it up at 5, but they make us stay in left field. On Saturdays, they open at 4:30, so when they opened I stayed in left for a few minutes until I snuck up over here.”
Badenhop: “Nice. How long have you been a Pirates fan?”
Me: “Well I was born in 1992, and have not been alive for a winning season, need I say more? I have always been loyal to my Pirates.”
Badenhop and Webb (laughing): “Wow. Nice. Hey, aren’t the Steelers play here at one?”
Me: “Yeah, they play at one, but they are in Baltimore to play the Ravens.”
Badenhop: “Oh I see.”
Me: “Aren’t the Dolphins playing Monday Night Football at home against the Patriots?”
Badenhop (sighs): “Yeah, and then the Raiders and Broncos are playing the second game.”
Webb: “Are we going to be able to see either of those games?”
Badenhop: “Probably not. Aren’t the Jets playing Sunday night?”
Me: “Yeah, against the Cowboys.”
Badenhop (roll of the eyes and exaggerated tone): “Oh great. I am so tired of them.”
Me (laughing): “I feel the exact same way.”
Badenhop and Webb: “Well, it was great talking to you, we have to go run and warm up.”
Me: “Ok. Thanks for taking the time and talking with me.”
That was awesome. I never get a chance to talk to players like that, and by being the only one over there, I was able to get into a conversation. It definitely was a highlight to the season.
There were a couple of things that went on during the conversation. When Webb was talking to me, Badenhop was singing a song, and it did not sound that great. Also, a ball was hit as the Marlins pitchers were warming up and I was talking to Badenhop and Webb. “Look out,” I screamed to reliever Brian Sanches who looked to the cage and saw the ball in enough time to catch it. He definitely seemed to appreciate it and turned to me and threw me the ball as a thank you. The throw was not the best as it looked as though it was going to hit Badenhop who was not paying attention, so I turned my glove and reached over to protect him and make the catch. Badenhop seemed a little worried but I protected my new buddy and that was that. I was pleased to add ball number five on the day.
I knew that the Marlins were not going to hit any baseballs to right or center from Friday’s game, and thus I just stayed put as left was crowded.
My staying there was a great call as soon after, Todd and Tim Cook better known as Cook and Sons, came to the ballpark and we all had a great conversation. They are huge Seattle Mariners fans despite being from Reading, PA. I think it is very cool, and they got Mike Cameron to come over and take a picture and sign their baseball.
I got a picture with Cameron, who I long respected, and before we even posed, Cameron jokingly said, “chesse”. It lightened the mood and was quite funny.
The Cooks and I hung out during the rest of BP, where I ended up with zero baseballs. Tim was hilarious with all of the stories he had and seemed to be in a great mood.
I then got to talk to Manny Lopez who is a very important player in the PNC Park puzzle. Manny is in charge of the grounds crew. Us ballhawks have not been happy, as the tarp has gone onto the field a lot more than anyone would like it to, and often times when the tarp goes on, the rain stops and it never goes off until right before the game. This has cost us quite a few baseballs.
I decided to ask Manny about how he makes the decision to put the tarp on pre-game. Manny told me that he looks hard at what radar says and he looks outside to see what the conditions look like. He said though that he hates putting the tarp onto the field and with that little explanation, I thanked him and we parted ways.
After parting ways with the Cooks, who wanted to explore the ballpark, I went to my usual spot the bullpen, to try and see Jeff Locke warm up for his first big league start. I set up shop right behind the fence, just in case PNC Security came early. All of a sudden a Pittsburgh Police Officer told all of us that we had to move and when I nicely asked him why, he said it was so that people with wheelchairs could go through. What??!! That is a bit confusing considering that we left them enough room, and being by the bullpen was never an issue before. It was clear that the officer did not know the rule, but I was not going to argue with him for obvious reasons.
The officer not knowing the rule allowed me to go around the ballpark and do my usual exploring. I ran into a buddy and we caught up, and I made it to my seat in time for the game to begin.
During the game I caught up with Nick, and we chatted for a bit. All of a sudden Derrick Lee belted a foul ball that landed in section 131. I reacted quickest and was ready in case the ball rebounded to my section, as I had it perfectly read, but it never bounced and I ended up getting shutout for the little bit of the game I was there for.
I did not stay long as just moments after the D. Lee foul ball I felt unwell and after taking care of myself for a short while, I left to be on the safe side.
I clearly did not miss anything, as the Pirates lost 3-0 as Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez pitched a complete game one-hitter. The Pirates lone hit was a double from Neil Walker who celebrated his 26th birthday that day.
I am feeling fine now, but as a precaution, I will not be going to Monday’s Pirates game, meaning Tuesday is my next game. The Cardinals will be back in town and that should be interesting to say the least. I currently have 124 baseballs on the season, putting me only four away from the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the season. I also am seven baseballs away from 200 career, so it would be cool to reach that milestone soon as well.
Also next week is Season Ticket Holder Field Days. This is a way the Pirates thank their season ticket holders, by allowing them to come down to the ballpark and hit and field on the field. My time is 11-1 on Friday and I am very excited. I was sick for last years, so I was pretty much hitting blind, but between the hitting and throwing, I am rather excited. Should be a fun and busy week next week!