Miss me?

Image

 

 I apologize for not updating, I have been busy as ever between journalism, school and other things. 

 I have literally been running all over the place working my butt off covering a lot of teams an balancing my school work. 

 I will try and update more throughout the week but will address the following with the post:

 

 1. Am I ballhawking this season?

  I do plan on ballhawking this season. I am planning on getting a 40 game plan although with various press coverages, there will likely be more of a limit. I also likely will take people to games. I expect this to be my last full fledged season but you never know things can always change.

 

 2.  What are my goals?

 1. No injuries – Easier said than done really. I have been working hard this off-season and my stamina has definitely improved. I am spending 2 hours at least in the gym at least 4 times a week. The minor dings will come but just avoiding the serious stuff would be huge.

 2. 200 balls– I expect my numbers to dip from last year so that will make this a goal I will try to reach. Plus the ballhawking competition in Pittsburgh is still the same, but I think almost everyone has gone to the lab and improved in the off-season. I am looking forward to what they will bring to the table.

3. More caught balls– I will still go for plenty of toss-ups but I do feel as though my speed is much more consistent and I am much more confident in my catching ability. I expect to catch more baseballs.

4. More giveaway baseballs– I typically gave away a ball a game after BP. Many of us Pittsburgh ballhawks give back and it’s awesome to put a smile on someone’s face. 

5. Raise more money for charity– I intend to bring back snagging baseballs for charity. I probably did not handle it the right way last year and I hope to be more consistent/raise more money. As always, proceeds will go to The Children’s Institute and you can pledge by donating for every baseball I snag, making a one time donation [as often as you’d like] or even on various items I will put up to bid. Your support would mean a lot and it would be great to send some nice money over.

 

6. Commemoratives– That darn Red Sox ball last year was all I missed out of the regularly used ones last season and I hope that changes, but just to snag more of those would be great.

 

7. Regardless of what happens have a smile on my face after every game– Sometimes it will be tough, and I’ve noticed I have become a lot more intense these past few months. The competitor in me has come out but regardless, this is friendly competition and I appreciate every snag that much more now. I am competitive but I take myself a lot less seriously than I did before.

 

I honestly did not miss baseball as much as I thought as I was constantly around sports whether it was volleyball, golf, college football, covering 70 college basketball games… you get the idea.

 While I have been working out like crazy, I just got into baseball mode this week and I am more then ready to go. I expect to throw a couple of times before Workout Day Sunday and workout like crazy the rest of the way.

 Hmm… what else? There is so much more to talk about, but I want to lay stuff out in entry. I definitely have some journalism stuff to blog, Pirates season awards, 2012 in review for me. Still I want to get this blog going again.

 Image

 

Pirates vs Atlanta Braves 10/2 & 10/3 PNC Park

I apologize for taking so long in between posts. I have six classes at Point Park this semester and as a junior in college I also have five beat writing jobs in addition to other responsibilities. This gave me no chance to update the blog, but at long last here is my post on the final series of the season for the Pirates.

October 2 was a Tuesday and I knew this was going to be quite possibly my last as a ballhawk. It could be my last batting practice ever as a ballhawk and quite possibly as a full-time ballhawk. As I type this I still am not sure what I will be doing for the 2013 season, but hopefully I will have some news sooner rather than later.

Back to the BP. I did the normal routine, I believe I lifted that day and then did the stretches and throwing. We then made the run in to PNC Park.

Knowing this may be my last BP ever, I let completely loose and pretty much danced for all of BP, amusing everyone.

I went with my usual strategy of hogging the end line and once again it failed. Believe me when I say that next season I will be changing up my strategies should I ballhawk.

I was fortunate to get ball #1 of the day from Chris Leroux. Leroux was about to throw the ball to someone else but when he saw me he changed course and threw the ball to me. Thanks Chris!

Chris and I got to have a nice hour long conversation since the season has ended and just got the chance to catch up. He is a great guy and he made a picture of us his profile picture. Whether I am interviewing you or in the stands, I hope to be able to keep this going.

Pirates BP was lacking which stunk, but it is what it is. The Braves were up next and I knew they were using baseballs last series at home with a special Chipper Jones commemorative logo to honor his final season. Chipper would not play in this game but would make a cameo in the season finale. My mission was to get one of those baseballs.

I asked a player and a few coaches and they told me that they were sorry but they did not have any.

“Heck I want one too,” Bullpen Catcher Alan Butts told me.

I was glad Butts took the time to tell me. I was bummed out but I understood and it was worth a try.

Before I asked though, I got ball #2, a ball hit by Juan Francisco that I got to first.

That would be it for BP for me. Immediately after though, I texted Erik Jabs and Nick Pelescak, as I wanted a big three ballhawk pic in case this was it. These are the results:

As a warning, we goofed off on this last one:

I actually got to stay for a while with this one and I may have stayed the whole game, I don’t remember.

10/3

Not much to report here. I had a class from 1-2:30 and I did not want to miss it twice, so instead I attended the class and then sprinted down to the game.

I made it just as my buddy Chris Leroux was mowing down the Braves hitters.

I wanted to try and get one last momento and I also figured this was when my ballhawking streak would end.

Well the Pirates lost the game, I got no momentos and the streak did indeed end.

I was glad the streak was over. If this is indeed it for me as a ballhawk, it provides the conclusion to the story and would allow me to comfortably step away. If it is not, this will make me hungrier to start a new streak next season. It was a great streak and I am appreciative that it happened, but all good things must come to an end and I am pleased to have as long of a streak as I did, especially considering I relied solely on tossups.

Of course I had to take my final picture of the season following the game:

The Braves would end up losing the wildcard game in controversial fashion and thus Chipper Jones retired. Here is his final at-bat as a major leaguer.

Now let’s go over the goals I had this season:

1. Stay healthy/injury free- My health was so much better this year. Injuries happened including pulled groin due to dehydration and I was sick once or twice but not enough to hurt. I was plagued on and off with a back injury from mid-May thru the end of the season and I actually ballhawked the Braves series in pain. It still flares up now and then and hopefully I can get it fixed.

2. Attend at least 50 games- I attended 59 games including one in Cleveland and one in Baltimore.

3. Raise more money for the Children’s Institute- I raised right around $400 once again this year and am appreciative to all those who helped.

4. Snag commemorative[s] baseball[s]- This one went pretty well. I got all of the major ones except the Red Sox. I consider that a success.

5. Off-season training- I started that well last season and now this off-season, I have been working very hard in the gym. Every other day is a two hour fullbody workout and I love it. I also have been bringing back basketball. My muscles aren’t straight lines anymore and the hard work is paying off. No pills, supplements, protein shakes, etc.. I want to do this naturally and right. I never thought when I started in March that I could do one handed push-ups with a 12 pound medicine ball.

6. Advocate 4:30 gate opening- That one worked pretty well. I wonder how all of us would have done without it. I am pleased I spoke up on behalf of the season ticket holder family.

7. Control the emotions- When I started working out, I lost on this one. Lots of people just interfere when balls are meant for you and it’s frustrating. When my strategy did not pan out when I was an idiot I would kick myself, but that is how it goes. I was pretty stone faced all season.

8. Catch more baseballs on the fly- I finally figured this one out a bit. When Erik and Nick caught one and Bullpen Catcher Herbie Andrade saw, I got sarcastic and opened my arms, rolled my eyes and looked skyward. They all laughed. Herbie talked about it all night. I got really good at one hoppers down the first base line.

9. Signatures- I got a couple of good ones including Troy Tulowitzki. I kept the Jim Thome one for myself and I got Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro to sign a ball during a late night autograph run with ballhawks Rick Sporcic and Ian Weir.

10. Have fun- I mean come on, I dougied my way through the whole season with ballhawk Robbie. I should get into the music a bit more and depending on the day I will, but I had fun even if I don’t show it much.

11. Snag 206 balls this season- Well I had 228 snags on the season becoming a top 10 ballhawk. It is great to go out that way should this be it. This was the big one and I am pleased that I got this done.

Lastly as promised here is some more PNC Park BP music, perhaps the last time you see this.

The season definitely had its ups and downs. I am extremely bummed the Pirates blew it down the stretch, but happy that I finally finished a season strong physically and mentally stronger than when I started the season, the first time I can ever say that. I got fatigued before but at the end of the season, I could have gone another 60 games.

Since I don’t know if this is it for me as a ballhawk, my next post will be on some of my memories and what I will take out of the experience. I hope to have that post up soon.

Pirates vs Reds 9/28-9/30 PNC Park

The return of some images could make this a more fun although the entry will already be long if all goes according to plan.

First before I get into the games. Here are some pics from earlier in the month.

1. During a BP earlier in the month, the sprinklers came on in the infield. A few of the pitchers cheered and it was just a funny thing to watch.

Has this ever happened at your ballpark during BP?

2. 200th baseball

Here I am with baseball #200 on the season.

3. What? Clint Hurdle looks a little too excited here

4. In the final game of the Milwaukee series I found out it was PNC ballhawk Jim Saylor’s last game of the season so I had to take a picture with him.

9/28

I was pumped coming into this series knowing I needed one snag to reach my season goal and obviously an additional baseball to surpass it.

I ran into the ballpark first and thought I saw a baseball coming around the corner but it was a mirage.

I then saw Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan and said hello and he said a ‘hi Zac’ to me.

I decided to start off the game with a different strategy staying closer to the bullpen instead of far left field.

Immediately I saw Joel Hanrahan chasing down a baseball and then he looked up and saw me clearly getting the baseball if he didn’t get it. He pulled up and the ball went over to the fence where I beat ballhawk Ian Weir for ball #1 and the goal was officially met. Thanks Joel, it was especially great to reach my goal because it was you who helped me out.

That would sadly be it for Pirates BP and technically Pirates baseball, but more on that later.

During Reds BP I saw Todd Frazier in left field. He tossed the ball way low and my re-strained back failed to reach it. Todd Frazier made like Chris Berman and the Monday Night Countdown crew and let out a ‘come on man’ before re-tossing it to me, giving me ball #2. Frazier would then run in to take his cuts.

This is the same Frazier that saved a life earlier in the season, and I guess he saved my ballhawking life for the day as my head was back in the game. Now I was at 209 snags on the season which meant I had surpassed my goal.

I thought I saw a ball on the third base line at 5:30 and I was first over in the tunnel so that was ball #3.

I then played the first base side and there were two cute kids next to me and it was the final hitting group so Miguel Cairo was playing the first base line and he tossed me balls #4 and 5 in a 10 minute period to give to the kids. One required a back hand reach up much like a first baseman scooping up a short hop.

Ball #6 was the final snag of the day and it was of course from the man Euclides Rojas.

As for the game. I honestly was unaware that Homer Bailey was in the process of a no-hitter. I was in the Hall of Fame Club getting my picture taken with former American Idol contestant Scott MacIntyre.

The no-hitter itself wasn’t surprising. Justin Verlander should have no-hit this team in May and this was karma. Plus Bailey had two shutouts before this no-no. I was pleased to witness that no-hitter and wish him and the Reds well in the playoffs, what an accomplishment to see in person.

Now I am going to switch it up. For each game, I will link up a youtube video of a song that us ballhawks hear in BP. Here is one right now [profanity is in this video]

9/29

I was at Point Park all morning and early afternoon covering volleyball for my school paper and now I needed a little bit of food to pump me up for ballhawking.

What I did not say in the previous entry was that my right leg was in real pain. While pursuing a ball in BP I banged my right knee cap really hard off the edge of a bleacher. Three years ago, that knee cap actually required physical therapy and I felt this pain for the rest of the homestand as because of the PT it takes longer for an injury there to heal.

Any ways, I was ready to eat but not too much so here was what I went with.

Now I was ready. I struggled through a throwing session trying to put weight on my knee when throwing and it was not that great on my end, but at least it wasn’t harming my running.

I searched first for easter eggs in left field and came up empty. I knew that was my last chance to play first base so I took advantage but the run to first base was a little slower than normal.

On my jog, I saw Neal Huntington by the Pirates clubhouse. He has had a tough end of the season as the media blew his comment dumbing down the fans out of proportion. I was tempted to say a few words but with Erik Jabs in front of me, I could not.

Thru two Pirates groups, I was seriously questioning my decision. Hishinori Takahashi’s translator was in right and he is not fan friendly with baseballs so I rolled my eyes as some annoying old grumpy man continued talking to himself and continued to be a pain in the ass as he has been all season.

Finally, Jose Tabata hit a one hopper that I was able to easily catch in my glove for ball #1.

I then got another ball hit that was well over my head and between myself and Scrooge. The race was on and I was not letting that scumbag get that ball, so I got it for ball #2.

Things then got a bit easier for me as the Reds came out and Todd Frazier mixed it up with me as we both laughed. He is such a cool guy, the kind of guy you would want to take a drink with.

Mat Latos came out and threw with one of the two Reds bullpen catchers. He randomly dropped a ball that rolled closer to the wheelchair area. I eyed it for a minute before the duh factor set it. I took a look at it and then asked the coach if they needed it. No was the response. Easy ball #3.

Latos then went back pretty deep on his throwing, probably right by the warning track or at least the very far grass and threw the ball as hard as he could. I could immediately tell it was going over the bullpen catcher’s head. I gauged where it was going to land and I was right. I was in the general area right before the barrier on the wheelchair section and made the catch. It was the hardest ball I have ever caught. I felt nothing. The bullpen catcher asked for it back and I gave it back. Ball #4.

Ballhawks Erik and Robbie then came up and I got ball #5 from an usher I befriended last year. We tried together to get Homer Bailey’s attention but he never responded.

Balls #6-8 went this way. Six was a toss up from an unidentified Red on the first base side. Ball #7 was hit shortly after on the first base side. Eight was a hit ball in center field.

That was it for BP, but I still had a chance to get double digits and I knew it.

Ball #9 came from Herbie Andrade. He played his usual trick of tossing up the ball high enough to make fans go for it but low enough that they wouldn’t get it. He tossed the baseball right to me.

Double digits became a reality as Kyle McPherson tossed up his baseball right after warming up.

In short, I love when the Reds come to town, especially weekends. Double digits happen.

Captain Morgan was also in attendance for the game taking pics with fans. Since I am not 21 yet, I asked if I could just take a pic of him and he was game and appreciated my honesty.

Last thing for this entry is another PNC Park BP song.

9/30

This was a Sunday game but it was Fan Appreciation Day and a chance to take pictures with the players.

Despite many delays where I live due to The Great Race, I got to the ballpark about 20 minutes before it opened.

Now about the pictures. The bandwagoners were in full force and the whole thing was horribly organized, but I still got a few pics.

This is what happens when I smell cigars. Can’t stand that smell.

Now onto the player pictures:

He immediately asked if I could come to the next day’s game and I couldn’t. Still we caught up and I thanked him for the help he gave me.

Good ole Chris Leroux. Oh and my backpack is on because things were so cramped and there were no organized lines. Leroux was great for me this year. It was because of him that I got my snagging record earlier this season.

By the way, Leroux took that pic himself. Then much like Evan Meek he goes, “have you met Chad Qualls” [Meek said Daniel McCutchen]. We shook hands and got this picture.

If I didn’t get a picture with Euclides Rojas then something would have been wrong. Gregg Ritchie to the right, resigned as Pirates hitting coach to accept the manager’s job at George Washington.

All of the Pirates arrived late and most left early. Jason Grilli stayed the full time for the fans. He had a rough finish to the season but I wanted him to know the true fans still have his back and I hope to see him in a Pirates uniform next season.

I would get one baseball from Rojas at this game. Here are a couple more pictures.

I just think the Luis Tiant part of his delivery is awesome.

Lunch

Pretty much sums up the Pirates season.

Here is the BP song:

That is just about it for this entry, although there were still two Braves games for me before the season and possibly my ballhawking career came to a close. How would I do, you’ll have to see to find out.

PNC Park Field Days 2012

Have you ever wanted to feel like a Major League player? Well the Pirates try to give their season ticket holders an idea of that experience with their field days.

Each year fans get to hit on the field, snag fly balls and throw on the very field the Pirates use for 81 games a season.

I have done this for three years now and again if I have my way this sadly will be the last time.

Of course I brought my friend Colston as always to the event.

From about a month before the event, I stepped up my workouts as I had a specific goal in mind – get the ball out of the infield on the fly. Last year, I hit a couple or so grounders out of the infield, but that was not good enough.

I had a nice lifting session right before heading down. We headed down with caution though as we hit on Friday, the day there was a hostage situation right by my Point Park campus. I was right on campus and very close to this. The area was mostly closed off. I will spare you the details and give you the link if you want to find out more:

http://www.wtae.com/news/local/allegheny/Gateway-Center-hostage-situation-ends-peacefully-in-downtown-Pittsburgh/-/10927008/16687840/-/4517giz/-/index.html

I was okay and safe the whole time, although the Point Park gym had both TV’s in the room I mainly worked out in tuned in for coverage on it.

Once I was done with my workout, I met with Colston and headed straight down to the ballpark.

Upon getting to the ballpark, I saw that fellow ballhawks Ian and Rick would be at the session as well which was great.

Rick and Ian would start out throwing in left which meant they hit last. I would field the fly balls in right field which meant my group hit second.

Last year even while sick the flyball machine was a piece of cake. This year it actually was a challenge and I struggled with a couple of them.

It was then off to the hitting. I had done a lot of promising and now it was time to put up or shutup.

Looking back at the video, I can see how bad my stance was and it usually is never that bad but here is the video to show you if I made my goal.

In short I made it despite a really messed up swing. Still the video is worth watching and I was pleased to reach my goal.

Colston had his struggles in the cages missing everything but it’s tough when the pitches were all over the place.

I then went into left field to throw with Colston. When it finally got to the jumping the fence to rob the balls, I got the first one but then Colston severly misfired and that was the end of that ball. Oh well.

I then played shallowish left and of course my first throw to where the balls are usually thrown was too strong [whoops I guess I lifted too much].

My one regret is not playing much deeper left. A season ticket holder hit a deep fly ball that just cleared the fence. I could have easily brought that back. Oh well, congrats to him.

Also Ian missed everything in my session and Rick’s power looked like Jose Tabata’s BP, then again Tabata is [somehow] a major leaguer, so there’s that. They would hit again in the next two hour session.

After all was said and done, everyone then went up for lunch, and I had a hamburger, ice cream and some chips while talking to Ian, Rick and Baseball Joe.

It was a great time, although I wish the Pirates had brought back the former players to interact with the fans.

Also in case you wanted to know, the baseballs were training balls, [whether or not they were from the Washington Nationals is anybody’s guess]. Training balls are much harder to hit.

Still the positives outweighed the negatives and it was fun.

Pirates vs Milwaukee Brewers 9/19 & 9/20

9/19

You never know what to expect from the Brewers but after another 10 days or so, I knew what to expect from the Pirates. Another lackluster BP.

Still I was three snags away from reaching my goal for the season.

I started out in center field and after about 10 minutes got one of the friendliest players Livan Hernandez to throw me a ball by asking in Spanish. Two Pirates fans were halfway over in front row and watched in shock as I put the finishing touches on my first snag of the day. Muchas gracias Livan!

I then searched for an empty area and ran over to the hot corner, third base by the tunnel to play grounders that could bounce over. I knew my speed could get to a ball before anyone.

I saw a yinzer fan in the front with a red coat on guarding the front spot with a glove, but knew he had no ability so I stood my ground, one section over and waited.

Another 10 minutes later, an unidentified Brewers batter hit a ball. It was not going to get to my section but I knew the man had no shot. The ball bounced over the man and into the tunnel. I recklessly hoped over the baracade and sprinted thru the tunnel while the guy was still trying to react. I picked up the ball easily and came out of the tunnel indifferent just as the man was walking in. No competition. Ball #2. Wish it was always that easy.

That would be it for BP so I set up shop by the bullpen. Kyle McPherson was making his first PNC Park start and after he finished warming up, he tossed me up ball #3 to end my night. Thanks Kyle!

9/20

Just one ball in this game, a Euclides Rojas toss up. I came late due to school and PNC Park’s stupid gate opening rule for afternoon games. I mean who lets their fans in for half an hour and then assentially puts them on house arrest by confining them to the riverwalk for 1/2 an hour. You open everything, you may have an increased profit [aka $].

So the fans were not even able to come in for an abbreviated Pirates BP and then the Brewers cut their session very short to add to the fact that their pitchers are stingy with toss ups.

If I am not a season ticket holder, it will dates such as this that I will not miss in the least. Get it right.

Pirates vs Chicago Cubs 9/7 & 9/8

9/7

After what seemed like an enternite was around 10 days before the next homestand and it was the Chicago Cubs. You get what you get with the Cubs and it seems to change from day to day BP wise. At least I remember the last time the Cubs came to PNC Park when I got autographs from Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano and I think Ian Weir remembers too.

But I had to focus on this game where of course the Pirates could not muster much out once again. I was beyond ready for the Cubs.

It was a good sign that Tony Campana was out in left field. The guy flat out hustles and often his momentum will carry him to the warning track leading to a toss up. I had the right idea but the wrong person.

My first ball came from Chapman – Jaye Chapman, formerly an Atlanta Braves on a toss up. He saw what he needed to say and tossed the ball up.

That put me at 199 baseballs on the season. I then looked over to the bullpen and saw exactly how I was going to get ball #200, but it would take a little time.

I saw catcher Wellington Castillo and coach Mike Borzello [former Yankees bullpen catcher]. At PNC Park before, Borzello was stiff and has tossed nothing up. I wanted to change that and break the unbreakable coach.

Five minutes later I made my move,

“Mr. Borzello, any chance for that baseball please,” I asked.

“Sure, no problem,” he responded.

Ball #200 on the season, thanks Mike!

Ball #3 actually came from a security guard which was cool. I was on the first base side and he tossed it up. That’s cool, I have never had that happen before.

That was it for the day as I left right after BP.

9/8

I was on a time limit for this one. It was my dad’s birthday and it wasn’t fair to him to keep him waiting. I also was quite under the weather so it was a gamble coming to the ballpark as I felt terrible.

I knew right away to make the jog to first base and just stay there to provide less stress on my body. Too much running would just have put my body over the edge.

Well one thing stopped me, my buddy Euclides Rojas. He saw me and flamed a ball right to the wall. Knowing what he was doing since he’s done it so many times, I fake acted scared before he threw me ball #1.

First base would not pay off at all. Bullpen catcher Andrew Lane I think ratted me out to half of the Cubs bullpen as I saw them all looking at me. I was in Pirates gear. The only other ball I got was a hit Alfonso Soriano ball [ball #2]. Lane looked disgusted and knowing I would not see him again, I held the ball up to say, even you can’t stop me.

Oh well, you win some you lose some and I got the last laugh.

That would be it for the Cubs series and I was ok with the performance considering my illness, I was just disappointed that I didn’t clean up like I normally did on Saturday games but at least it wasn’t a 4:05 game, plus now I was comfortably over 200 baseballs and close to that 208 baseball goal I had set for the beginning of the season.

Pirates vs St. Louis Cardinals 8/28 PNC Park

This one will be a quick one as I need to catch up on everything.

The Pirates were smack dab in the middle of a collapse and as a whole, the collapse has been a true shame. Despite the whole clothes thing during BP, I really do love this Pirates team and wish nothing but the best for them.

I had a law class at 6 pm so I knew pickings would be quite slim and for all of Pirates BP, I got shut out once again as their bats disappointed.

The Cardinals are very stingy with toss ups despite my obvious efforts and I just couldn’t get a hit ball but there was no way I was going to be denied before I left.

I intended to leave at 5:40 but of course I was still without a baseball. At 5:43, I convinced the normally stingy Kyle Lohse to toss me up the baseball [thanks Kyle :)] he had finished throwing with Joe Kelly. Ball #1 and I made it to class right at 6 PM.