We’re going to start with the things that disgust me about PNC Park first so I don’t forget. Despite it being two games I attended, it was three games, so you get three things that disgust me.
#1 is the America’s Past time video. The guy is so annoying and it is on every game with no variation. It admits we strikeout and the even when the Pirates lose it talks about coming off of a win. Even bringing back something like the battleship animation where at least the teams changed each series is fine. It almost makes me miss the Pirate on the jumbotron that had that cool intro.
#2 Spiderwebs by the bullpen area. For a park that is so huge on cleanliness, you would think the area right in front of command post would always be taken care of. Nope. A couple of series ago there was this big spiderweb. Add that to the bee problem and the clear bug problem and it is a little gross. I ate a couple of slices of Diamond Pizza and put the plate down for 10 minutes during a game and when I looked back down, the plate was full of bugs. I’m glad I finished that pizza.
#3 goes to the Hunt Auction area. I love collecting things in general, baseballs, media guides, programs, ticket stubs, whatever. Hunt Auctions is really the only place where as the commercial says you can take home a part of the game. Game used baseballs in cubes at $25 are rather reasonable but otherwise these prices are ridiculous. $100 for the Mother’s Day lineup card? $65 for a signed Clint Hurdle baseball? $100 for a signed McCutchen baseball? $425 for a signed Derek Jeter baseball? These prices need to be much more reasonable if you really want fans to feel a part of the game.
Tuesday was a downish day since there was no Pirates BP. Snagging opportunities were kind of gone until around 5:30 to begin with as the relievers are tired of tossing baseballs up to us ballhawks.
So I had some time to snap pictures and enjoy myself for a little bit.
When 5:30 came, I got my first ball after the Silverio’s and Euclides Rojas were done throwing. I was on the third base side, and Rojas threw the ball. My glove was off for some reason and I had just beat Kansas City ballhawk Leiming down the steps despite not going as fast as I wanted. The catch was a barehanded one with my left hand for ball #1.
That sadly was it for BP on this day but at least I avoided the shutout which is easier said than done.
My day was not done yet though as I prepared for A.J. Burnett to do battle with Lucas Harrell.
Rojas would help me once more tossing another one up that I grabbed this time barehanded with my right hand. My hands were great today, I could have been on the Allstate All Hands Team today.
The Pirates won once again. Here are a few more pics:
It was once again very hot and I knew there would be BP as the Pirates were trying to go for the sweep, but with Carlos Lee gone to the Marlins, I expected both teams to have a tame BP.
I definitely was right on the Pirates end although I got a bit of help.
Euclides Rojas threw me either a duck or a slight knuckleball but no matter, it was ball #1 on the day.
Shortly after Herbie Andrade saw me at the wall and threw me ball #2.
That was it for me during Pirates BP as I have been working the foul pole lately in a change of strategy just to see different things.
At 5:30 I went over to the first base side where Wandy Rodriguez was throwing and when he was done he threw me ball #3. It was a little off but I was able to catch it.
Ball #4 involved a good amount of luck.
A guy was playing the spot I normally do and a batted ball bounced right to him. He had no glove and the ball deflected out of his hands right to me for career snag #350. Right place, right time and I of course gave him back the ball. He was grateful and let me play the spot although it didn’t work out for me.
I also ran into Javier Bracamonte again and went over my motion with him to his nods of approval.
Those were all of the baseballs I snagged at this game. Four has been the magic number for me lately.
Then I saw a tweet from the Pirates that changed the night.
So after ballhawk Ian Weir got some food and generously got me a burger, we went up to the Bowtie Bar a couple of minutes later thinking the tickets were gone but figured it was worth a try.
So after a nice walk, here we were.
So a nice walk inside and we took in the surroundings.
Why you ask, because I had to catch the T after and this was the wait on both sides.
Fortunately one came the shorter way and everyone flocked to it. I did not want to be a sardine so I waited and took the long way. At least I got to see Heinz Field.
The week wasn’t over though. I skipped Saturday and Sunday due to heat and activities but braves 105 degree heat index for Friday’s game against the Giants. How would I do? You’ll have to read the next entry to find out.
That Sunday Tigers game left a bad taste in my mouth and I knew I still needed four snags to achieve the most amount of baseballs snagged in my ballhawking career.
I was a little tired having covered the Constellation Senior Players Champions Tour major golf tournament in some intense heat from 6:15 AM- 8 PM both days and walking 36 holes and back and forth. Still, there was no way I was not giving this one a go.
My throwing on the bridge was not what I wanted, but my arm was mostly there.
Pirates BP started off interestingly for me. I was a few minutes late arriving to the gate and thus missed out at the chance for easter eggs.
Pirates BP was a bit more lively than it usually was and I paid the price.
I was pursuing a batted ball on a bounce and so was ballhawk Rick. We both dove for it and ended up misplaying it. Side of the leg got a little bruise but not a big deal. We apologized to each other and moved on.
Euclides Rojas saw the effort and a couple minutes later wound up and tossed a mid-range throw that was right on the money for ball #1. It has been awesome that Euclides has been helping me each day it is such a nice thing that he does for me.
Ball #2 also came during Pirates BP and was a batted ball that I beat everyone to the scrum for.
Pirates BP ended shortly after, and I knew that two was the magic number and it would have to happen during what normally is a mediocre Astros BP.
I was a bit more mobile during Astros BP trying to compensate for lack of gear and also for lack of pop. I was doing a lot of running at PNC on this day and feeling great about it.
The ballhawks spread out between various parts of the outfield come 5:30. I took advantage and stayed in left field. A batted ball by an Astros batter was hit decently. I knew it wasn’t a homer but also knew there was a good chance it would bounce. I tried to run over and in the process caught the ball off the bounce. It wasn’t a far run but a spur of the moment thing that just ended up working out. Ball #3.
I knew there was one ball left and with so many Astros players over on the right field side, I decided to head over there to try and get the new milestone and eclipse my previous single season ballhawking high.
Quickly I became bored, and decided to work on my pitching motion for a minute.
I shortly made contact with the Astros who somehow were bored enough to watch. Bullpen Catcher Javier Bracamonte looked at me and immediately made a motion for how he wanted me to throw the ball. So I tried again and got the same thing and started bettering it.
I asked him to come over by motioning with my hands, but he was adament at the spot he was at and nodding encouragement when I would look like I was doing it right.
To make things even better, and Astros reliever I think Brandon Lyon had a ball hit to him and Bracamonte asked for the ball. He threw it to me for ball #4, the record breaker!
I wish I could say that the story was done there, but it was not.
Bracamonte had Lopez who is on the DL get in a catcher crouch. I knew what this meant, I was going to get to pitch to a Major Leaguer.
I will be honest, my first throw was a dead bouncing duck. It was terrible and I was not happy. This happened when I threw with Humberto Quintero briefly earlier this year although I had no issues with Matt Maloney last season.
I knew they would give me another shot and I flailed a throw in there with the new motion in for a strike. Once I got the monkey off my back, it was smooth sailing. I hit Lopez’s glove with some nice strikes and got some nods. I gave Lopez everything I had while keeping it in the zone.
Lopez called for the session to end after a couple minutes or so and let me keep the ball which was great. It was a great experience and I hope it happens again.
Regretfully, I do not have any video of any of this but I do have this photo I took after BP with myself and Wilton.
I then headed up to the concourse and finally got to look at the baseball. Well it looks like I was throwing around with this.
With all this excitement, I went over to the Budweiser Bowtie Bar and just started clicking the camera.
Then saw that the Andrew McCutchen t-shirts for the All-Star game were up.
After that and some great conversations, I had to leave PNC as I was covering summer league basketball in Greentree.
Now to thing #4 that disgusts me about PNC Park. This one will not be popular.
It is the perogie race at PNC Park. First off, this has been at PNC Park for years and it is so boring. It was either watch a video and have them run or just running around the warning track to the most annoying hillbilly song ever.
Fans seem to care more about the race than the actual game itself and that makes it impossible. On top of that, many fans gamble on who will win the race. I can only imagine what Mrs. T’s pay a year for the Pirates to do this, but enough is enough, it is just so annoying.
Speaking of annoying, the game the next day would be one of those days as Clint Hurdle had the players come in when season ticket holders were to enter at 4:30 leading to a lot of not so pleased ballhawks. How would I do on that game as well as Thursday, well read the next entry to find out.
I was only to make one of the three Astros game which truly disappointed me. I really wanted to try and get one of their commemorative baseballs. I would only have one day to do this as I had to teach tennis Friday, and Sunday my parents completely manipulated me and thus I could not go.
Saturday was a disappointment in its own right as well as I had to tooth and nail just to get to my average.
I started out by throwing on the bridge and my arm was the best it was all season. I was throwing halfway across the bridge with pop and I was pleased with how the session went.
I hoped that this positive energy would help me in the ballpark, but of course things did not turn out the way that I had hoped.
I started in left field and of course the ushers were sitting there meaning all of the balls were pocketed… again. It didn’t hurt trying to look anyways, although when I prepared to go up into the second deck someone said, “they’re all gone man. They were pocketed.”
I stayed in left for a few more minutes as Chris Leroux was in left field so we shook hands and talked. Unfortunately he was in the usual relief crowd of people in left center and I decided it was not worth it.
I was headed for the first base side, until I saw Kevin Correia with a ball. A ballhawk called for it and just for the heck of it, I threw up my glove. He ended up throwing it to me for ball #1. That has happened to me so many times where I will call a player’s name and he will throw someone else the ball, so it was nice that I was the beneficiary for a change.
I kept the good vibes going when I got on the first base side. I saw Jared Hughes with two baseballs and I sprinted to get there in time and I ended up getting there just in time.
“Hey do you want one,” He asked.
“Sure,” I replied.
Ball #2. Thanks Jared! This ball was later given away when I thought I lost my Joel Hanrahan bobblehead and a family graciously gave it back to me. The ball went to their youngest child.
The Pirates unfortutely did not have anything else that went my way during BP.
The Astros came out (thank goodness) and started throwing. Reliever Rhiner Cruz and starter Wandy Rodriguez were throwing and Cruz’s toss rolled slightly past Rodriguez and into my glove. I quickly inspected it to see if it was a commemorative. It was not but regardless, I would have thrown them back the ball. While I never got the toss up back (weird), I count the ball.
Something similar happened for ball #4. An Astros reliever had a bouncer that fellow reliever Wilton Lopez couldn’t quite handle and it went straight into my glove. Unfortunately, it was not a commemorative (Astros did not have any in their bag) and again another toss back. The ball was never given back to me, but that’s okay.
That was it for all of BP. Astros BP generally stunk so I just stayed over at first base and tried to get a toss up at the end, which did not work out.
I then went to my spot in the bullpen where bullpen coach Euclides Rojas warmed up catcher Michael McKenry and afterwards looked at me and tossed me ball #5. I gave this to a young kid standing close to me. The child’s mother was very grateful.
The good vibes spread to the Pirates who would win this game after a disappointing 1-0 loss the previous day.
Here are some photos from the game:
I figured that since the season is less than a month ago, I would post this quick entry with predictions for the NL Central this season.
6. Houston Astros (63-99)- True the Astros have Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, Bill Hall and Clint Barnes but that is not enough. Chris Johnson leads what perhaps is the worst infield in baseball. Brett Myers had a great season last year and is joined by old Phillies teammate J.A. Happ, but the offense will sputter and not give them the leads they need. Manager Brad Mills, had the tough and unenviable job of trying to manage a team that traded away Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman last season and did well, but lightning does not strike twice.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (65-97)- The Pirates are just a hair better than the Astros. The Pirates were finally buyers in the free agent market signing Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz and Scott Olsen to name a few. The Pirates also hired Clint Hurdle to be the team’s Manager and he will be passionate and perhaps bring out the best in this Pirates team. Pitching will be a huge issue as the Pirates offense does not score much which adds pressure on the starters. Either Paul Maholm or James McDonald likely will be the ace of the team and neither is an ace by any means. Other huge problem is that the Pirates cannot win on the road. They will have to if they want success this season.
4. Chicago Cubs (77-85)- Chicago has improved especially with the acquision of Matt Garza, however much of their core is aging. Alfonso Soriano struggles defensively and will strikeout a ton while Ramirez faced a lot of injuries last season. Carlos Zambrano had issues of his own last season, however when he came back was as close to lights out as the Cubs had. Ryan Dempster will be the ace of this team and he is good but not great. Look out for Starlin Castro this season, I think the power numbers will go up, thus making him a complete player.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (85-77)- I honestly had the Cardinals in first place until Adam Wainwright got injured. He will be out for the whole season, and thus they fall to third. They missed the playoffs last year and will just miss again. One player normally does not make the difference, but the irreplaceable Wainwright was a 20 game winner last year and a 19 game winner in 2009. Each team in the NL Central besides the Astros and Cardinals has improved this off-season and that will come to bite the Cardinals. The division is that close this season, and both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday will have slight regressions this season. Chris Carpenter is also banged up and considering his past that is not a good thing.
2. Milwaukee Brewers (88-74)- Milwaukee easily improved the most in the NL Central this off-season. Their weakness has been pitching as the team has relied solely at times on Yovani Gallardo. Now the Brewers have made a weakness a potential strength acquiring Shaun Marcum from Toronto and Zack Greinke from Kansas City. While Greinke is likely to land on the DL now, he will definitely help this team this season and the city of Milwaukee should not pressure him. I am a little concerned that they are going to disappoint especially with new manager Ron Roenicke now at the helm. We shall see how it turns out.
1. Cincinnati Reds (90-72)- Yes despite all of this fire power, only one team makes it to 90 wins, and just barely. No one is talking about the Reds this season. They if possible are once again going under the radar. Manager Dusty Baker knows what he is doing and MVP Joey Votto will have another great season. The pitching staff has a lot of options and don’t forget that Aroldis Chapman and his 105 mile-per-hour fastball are still in Cincy. The team improved signing World Series MVP Edgar Renteria to play shortstop. This was a great signing and at worst, Renteria who will replace Orlando Cabrera can provide some nice veteran leadership.
I arrived early and the gates for some reason were already opened. Unfortunately the access to the seating bowl was shut.
I had to stand and wait for the gate to open. Sure enough Herbie Andrade, Ray Searage and a couple of pitchers came to the bullpen. My glove was on and without asking, Herbie threw me up ball number 1 on the day. Thank you so much Herbie for a great season!
With this snag, I was one ball away from achieving my goal.
It would come when the Astros were throwing. I aggressively got closer Matt Lindstrom’s attention and he threw me ball number 2 on the day. I now had ball number 64 and I could relax!!!
My body felt worse and worse as the game wore on and I developed a severe headache during the game and it affected me greatly. I lost out on the Hunter Pence home run as the ball bounced back and I was boxed out.
I went to my third base seat towards the end of the game and home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth. I was hoping for a baseball but he only had two and two kids were in front of me. He told me, “I’m sorry I don’t have any more baseballs but I can give you these line up cards”. He gave me both teams line up cards and I thanked him.
I tried to get the players toss ups as they were tossing up signed hats but I wasn’t able to get any hat.
That is all for this season. My next entry will be of my Season Ticket Holder Field Day which is Monday, October 4.
Considering that I had set a goal of 64 baseballs by the end of the homestand, things would be tough.
I was not present for Friday’s game and by Saturday I was sick with a runny nose and sore throat. I had to go to today’s game and work through my illness.
I quickly ran into the seating area in left field. Both Ian Weir and Nick Pelescak searched the lower seating bowl and thus I went to the top seating bowl because I got a tip from two of the ushers. A Pirates reliever then randomly threw a ball up to my area and I was a few rows up. With nobody else up there I got the ball but because I was getting ball number 1, ball number 2 would not have a person who threw it. Upon coming down the steps, I saw that I had missed a ball and ball number 3 was quickly mine. This put me at 60 baseballs on the year.
That would be all that I got for the Pirates portion of bp. I snuck over early for the Astros portion of bp and asked both Jeff Fulchino and an Astros coach for a ball and they both declined my request. I decided to change things up and play for foul balls, and thus balls number 4 and 5 went into my glove.
I also got three signatures in Michael Bourn, Jason Bourgeois and Nelson Figueroa.
That was all in terms of snagging as I failed to snag the first inning Andrew McCutchen toss up because the ball was under thrown and I got it with the bottom part of my glove and people were playing with my glove.
I did get to pose with the Songwhale prize of a signed Neil Walker bat but I do not have that picture yet.
I did go to Fan Appreciation Day and I needed two baseballs to reach my goal. Did I get it? You’ll have to read on to find out.
After yet another long week, I decided to cap it off at PNC Park with my free Pittsburgh Baseball Club ticket (my second one this year). With the All-Star Break over, I was expecting a large amount of snags for this game.
While I left on time with my friend, we hit a lot of traffic and parked further away than usual, meaning I would have to run to get to the park and get a whiff of BP.
Fortunately I made it with a little time to spare, and of course I nearly got shut out. The sun made things very hard to see and my only saving grace was All-Star Evan Meek who saw my glove and threw me a ball. The ball was surprisingly under thrown and I had to quickly react and made a lunging underhanded catch for ball number 1.
The Astros batting practice brought nothing but frustration, as I have no Astros colors and also was unable to get any tossups despite asking a player for a ball in Spanish on multiple occasions.
The sun still was a major detriment to me, and I was unable to really locate any baseballs.
It also hurt that I had found three bullpen balls and I was unable to get any of them. I noticed the first ball in the bullpen after the Pirates finished BP, and D.J. Carrasco did not respond to my request and the ball remained where it was. I then asked a grounds crew man and he said that he couldn’t move the ball. I then left in favor of centerfield and better snagging opportunities but upon returning and getting nothing, I saw that the ball had vanished.
I then talked to Nick of BHL and he was also victimized by the sun catching a BP home run and then dropping it. He would redeem himself later on.
After the conversations, I noticed two more balls lying in the bullpen, with the police officer by the bullpen and I pretty much felt like I had the ball or even balls in the bag. I saw the officer go into the bullpen and asked very nicely but again was denied. Frustrated, I uttered a couple of expletives and moved on.
It was at this point that my friend had arrived and was surprised to see my snag. I on the other hand was not pleased with myself as I felt I should have had at least three snags by now.
Still undeterred, my friend moved into the PBC Club while I stayed in the hot hot heat. I decided to move towards the dugout as the outfield was not working for me. This move did not work out either. It was then when I noticed that my leg was a bit bloody because of the obnoxious people who just sit in the outfield. Honestly, you should just stay out unless you are trying to catch baseballs; you have no business being in there.
I then played Press Your Buc on the Songwhale booth and came up with a whammy. It was then when I saw my vendor friend who actually got to be a vendor at the All-Star game and we had a nice conversation.
I then walked over to the PBC Club and spun the Prize Wheel and again ended up with a $6 coupon, but because they didn’t mark my ticket I was able to spin again later. At this point I met up with my friend and we took our seats.
I ate my dinner and no foul balls came up despite my being ready. Later on in the hotdog toss a hot dog came into our section but unfortunately it went well to the left of me and was snagged by an obnoxious buffoon in my section.
Quickly recovering from the stinging defeat of free hotdogs, I whipped out my new phone and sent my first text message in an attempt to win a signed Ryan Doumit Pirates hat. I then decided to go down to centerfield to snag a tossup during the fourth inning.
This allowed me to spin the prize wheel once again and I won a Ryan Doumit bobble head which I gave to Nick as I already had one. He told me that the tossups were all messed up and soon after Andrew McCutchen threw the ball to left centerfield and Milledge tossed the ball a little too short and I continued to stay at one baseball.
I then received a text from Songwhale which said that I won the Doumit cap and I immediately got it. I then decided that I needed to try and get a second ball and went to the bullpen.
I was stuck in the middle of the bullpen but a few minutes later I was much closer although I had to stick my head in the middle of a gate and it barely fit. Sean Gallagher went up to warm up and soon after was called back, but I was unable to get Herbie Andrade’s attention due to the end of the inning break activities. Gallagher and Evan Meek then warmed up and I quickly called to new catcher Erik Kratz and unfortunately he ignored me. Meek then was called back but he tossed a baseball to a couple of girls but when I asked him for a ball I motioned with my glove and he waved at me thinking that I said hi. I then asked Herbie again and quickly he tossed up ball number 2.
I then thanked him and went up to the Hall of Fame Club as I wanted to get Dave Parker to sign my baseball as he was a celebrity bartender for the day. After a good ten minutes and another great talk with Dave Arrigo (one of the Pirates photographers) I got “The Cobra” to sign my baseball. I then had a nice five minute chat with Pirates radio personality Rocco DeMaro about my fantasy team and many other topics.
I then went back up to the PBC Club and soon after met up with my friend, who I immediately gave baseball number 2 to. He had needed a ball for autographs and it was a fairly clean ball. A foul ball then came up to our section, but because my friend was blocking the way, I had no way of catching the ball. This angered me.
After the game, a loss; we went back to the Hall of Fame Club where my friend got his ball signed by Parker and then we watched the Pirates postgame radio show Extra Innings, hosted by Rocco DeMaro and at the end of the show left.
I will be at the ballpark on both Tuesday and Saturday of this week but I am not expecting much on Saturday’s game as I expect it to be a sellout due to the Steve Miller Band concert.