Due to the rain, there were not nearly as many opportunities to snag baseballs. There was no batting practice every single game I went besides Saturday. I am not counting Wednesday towards my ballhawking stats as I was a media member and covering both dugouts (and there was rain galore again) I had no opportunites to snag a thing.
Balls snagged: 25
Career Balls Snagged: 94
Top Catches of the homestand:
1. Saturday April 23 Pirates vs Nationals: Matt Diaz hit a ball that initially looked as though it was going to fall short of where I had set up shop, but it sailed longer. I was prepared to play it off of a bounce, and it did bounce, right off of my leg. I had no time to lick my wound and I dove on the concrete on top of the ball making the snag. It also was ball number 22 of the season.. BHL founder Erik Jabs said that I needed to snag 21 this month to keep pace, and it allowed me to pass this benchmark. Also it took me until July 20, 2010 last season to get to this point, so I am well ahead of my pace.
2. Tuesday April 26 Pirates vs Giants: I had just missed an Andrew McCutchen toss up in the third as he under threw me. My back had been out and my leg still banged up from the Diaz hit and other injuries. I also had slightly tweaked my ankle. In the fifth inning, Cutch tossed up the ball and I knew this likely was my last chance. Ian Weir had snagged the third inning ball after my misplay, and if I missed it, he was likely to get it. Right behind me was a supervisor so I had to defend him as well. It was the exact same catch as the one on April 14 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
1. Tim Lincecum- I don’t really chase autographs anymore, but with no BP on the field and nothing going on, I tried to get Giants ace Tim Lincecum. It was hard because he started in the middle of the autograph seekers and I was closer to the end of the line trying to gauge where he was. He then was skipping every two or three people, so I went where I thought he would sign, and I ended up correct. He signed the baseball thrown to me by Madison Bumgarner only minutes before. It was a great moment and a great add to a collection which includes Adam Wainwright, Billy Wagner, Ubaldo Jimenez, Andrew McCutchen and more which I cannot think of right now. Lincecum has a scribbly autograph much like Jimenez, so you really can’t tell that it was him who signed it.
I plan on being an active member of this homestand. Being at 94 snags, I more than expect to surpass the 100 career snags on this homestand, which has visits from the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros are not great when it comes to BP or toss ups, but you never know. The Dodgers have a new manager but with Matt Kemp, Andre Eihier and others it should be a fun BP. Here are the games I plan on going to at this moment:
1. Saturday May 7 vs Astros
2. Tuesday May 10 vs Dodgers
3. Wednesday May 11 vs Dodgers
4. Thursday May 12 vs Dodgers
PLEASE HOLD UP WEATHER!!! WE HAVE ALREADY HAD ENOUGH RAIN!!
Lastly fellow Pittsburgh ballhawk and BHL member Nick Pelescak asked me if I wanted to go to Washington to see the Nationals play the Giants, but I decided against it as I have finals this week. It actually didn’t seem that expensive to go so very well may take a road trip this year. He also offered to take me to Texas this summer, but with a summer job and limits I declined that invite. Perhaps Washington and Cleveland are possibilities this season.
I was glad that I was not at Friday’s game, as there was no game and it was rescheduled for Monday. I am not going to Monday’s game though although Nationals BP was good on Saturday.
Today’s game just was not a good one as I just felt tired the entire time. My back always goes out, but that was not the case last night. Still I needed only one snag to get to the 21 balls that Erik Jabs said I needed to get closer to my goal.
I immediately looked in the second deck for Easter Eggs and because of my three hours sleep the night before, I ended up missing a ball that someone else would find later. Matt Diaz also hit a ball that was in my row, but I was talking to a ballhawk named Mike. I just was so lazy and it was mine if I had even decided to run, but it did not happen.
I started to give up hope, especially since the usual toss up or two I got during BP was not happening and I was just getting really unlucky.
Just when I was ready to pack it in, Matt Diaz hit it my way. The ball was heading short, and I was playing the bounce. What I did not expect was that the bounce would be off of my leg and instead of wincing in pain, I dove where I thought the ball would land and got my first ball of the day.
You can see Diaz hitting at the top of the picture.
Although I was in centerfield at the time of the picture and was inbetween the two left field sections, I decided to recreate the dive while looking at the camera. P.S. it was raining. This was the result:
Photo taken by Colston Cooper
My running at this game was by far the worst of the season, so when an unidentified hitter came up and hit a ball to the second deck, I went running up. I ended up getting the hit ball up there which came to rest in the top row of one of the sections and was ball number two on the day. The rest of Pirates BP was a couple more misses and being ignored for toss ups.
Nationals BP was not good either as no toss up luck was coming. I even asked Chad Gaudin for one by name and he ignored me. Brian Burgess was tossing up a good deal but did not get any. I missed a few homers at center, just missed it. I then tried right field and immediately when I went up there I adjusted my position and it started to drizzle. The last ball was a bomb hit by Rick Ankiel. I had it sized up perfectly but was two rows too short.
I then walked around the park, hanging with Nick Pelescak at the Diamond Pizza and speaking to a few people, and we even chased down a squirrel that we found. The pregame festivities ended and then I caught up with Colston as the tarp was applied onto the field. The drizzle was not even that significant, and three or so innings could have been played.
I was kept updated throughout the whole thing, and the end of the conversation I was told that the big stuff was coming but slowly. When I asked when, I got no response. Then I waited and about 5-10 minutes later I was told 8:15. I was asking myself what he meant and a couple minutes later, I saw that the tarp was removed from the field and the game would start at 8:15. Guess that answered my question.
Jeff Karstens made the start tonight, and it was his best start in recent memory. He may have nailed down that fifth spot in the rotation until Ross Ohlendorf comes back.
I was never close to any Jose Tabata or Andrew McCutchen toss ups the entire night.
At Nick’s urging, I went to left field, and sure enough Jayson Werth hit a homer right to where I was standing. I was lined up to make the catch, but sure enough Nick and Erik leaped. I was praying that something would happen to where they did not get it. Unfortunately for me, Nick had it and thus I had no play on it. I was not happy, but at least I was in the play this time.
I had no more luck and around 10, I left. I finally was starting to sprint between the middle of the riverwalk and left field, and had suffered a cramp in my pectoral muscle that for a second I thought could have been serious. I am more than fine, and I plan on being at the park on Tuesday weather depending.
Totals thus far:
Baseballs Given Away: 14
Games Attended: 5
Here is a final picture for you:
Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.
First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.
Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.
Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.
Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220’s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.
Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.
Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.
Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.
*Note: Before I begin, I do want to say that I left a couple of quotes out, but these do not affect what you are reading. Enjoy!
Pittsburgh Pirates Media Interviews
Manager Clint Hurdle:
1. What does a rainout do to you, particularly the pitchers?
“It’s plays out in different ways. There’s times you really prefer to keep playing and there’s times when a day off is nice. We had the day off, and I don’t think that anyone was clawing or scratching and kicking their teeth or was going to walk out the door and head home.”
2. On Evan Meek being ready for tonight’s game
“He’s fit for duty. He really well could be (in terms of is he still sick).”
3. Lined up rotation for Cincinnati
“We still have a TBA (to be announced) on the 17th. Friday and Saturday will just fall in order with (Charlie) Morton and (James) McDonald.”
4. On whether Jeff Karstens is available in relief for Brewers series
“He will be available thru the series.”
5. Season breakdown in days or weeks?
“I usually break things down into ten game sets. It allows you to look at everyone a little bit.”
6. Thru ten games now
“I think we have done some things right and some things wrong. There is room for improvement in some areas.”
7. On Josh Hamilton’s slide and advising players against sliding headfirst
“Yes all of the time. There’s two players in the Major Leagues right now Rafael Furcal and Josh Hamilton that were hurt for sliding first.”
8. Is there any leeway when a manager argues balls and strikes?
“You are not gone automatically. If you leave the dugout you have a good chance of being gone automatically. I have had running commentary with every ump since the start of the season, some more then others. There are a couple of umps that don’t even acknowledge the fact that you’re there, I’m sure for all the appropriate reasons. Most guys will say, ‘that’s it, any more and you’re gone’.”
9. On Garrett Jones not being in the lineup
“Yesterday, I was looking at a lineup from the standpoint that we were going to play the three games series and that there were going to be two left-handers. Right now, Matt is swinging the bat better, so this Marcum kid he’s an interesting pitcher, his lifetime splits are reversed. Right handers are hitting 108 points higher against him than left-handers. I already am throwing three left-handers in the lineup today. I’ve encouraged people in the past to live outside the box and be creative and initially I did not do that yesterday and I got to sleep on it for a night, and I thought ‘let’s go do it’.”
10. On getting switch-hitter Ryan Doumit to bat from the right side of the plate
“We’ve had the talk. I wouldn’t force anybody to do it.”
1. Where do you weigh in on the whole Electric Stuff groups online?
“Electric Stuff? Do I endorse it (laughs)? I mean I think I have good stuff, do I endorse it, sure (laughs). I appreciate the support.”
2. On his new arm angle
“We actually started to tinker with it probably in the second week of Spring Training. It’s still kind of new. I think during Spring Training, I was so focused on competing and I hadn’t really adapted to it the way I wanted to. I think now, I’m getting used to it but the first couple starts, there’s going to be some control problems but my misses are consistent, I’m missing down and in to a righty, and it just shows that I’m not making the adjustment but at the same time it is showing that once I do make the adjustment it will be consistent, I just got to work on it.”
3. How do you plan on remaining confident and getting ahead of hitters in the count?
“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early. I may have been tipping pitches, I’m not sure, but I know that the hitters were seeing the ball really well. I adjusted some things, and release the ball a little later and as a pitcher, you can see the swings of the hitters, when I started seeing guys late on pitches after the adjustment, even if they were right down the middle, I knew was heading in the right direction, and that allows me to be confident.”
4. Comparison of new arm slide to Roy Halladay
“An arm angle is one thing, results are another. Is it good that people like my arm angle? Yeah, it’s really good. If I can pitch like him, then I’ll be perfectly happy. I feel that when I can throw a ball down in the zone I’m going to get groundballs.”
5. Rivalry with Brewers
“It’s similar to what we have struggled with in the past; winning the games on the road. We had a great first road trip, and I think we have something to prove. The key is not dwelling in the disappointment from things that have happened in the past. If we focus on those things, it’s going to bring us down.”
6. On the fan incidents that happened this week
“I heard about it, I saw a picture of it and someone said it was on YouTube, I haven’t researched it. I heard about the usher that was killed, and stuff like that is more disappointing.”
7. Anything to add?
1. The sinker
“It’s got a lot to do with arm slot and just how you finish with your pitch. It’s a little easier for me to throw and Charlie’s pretty much the same way.”
2. Is that your out pitch?
“That’s generally what I go to, especially being out of the ‘pen, You don’t want to get beat with anything but your best pitch, so I throw it more often then not.”
3. Secret in terms of bouncing back from a rough outing
“You just need to have short memory. You can’t worry good or bad about what happened yesterday because obviously it doesn’t matter now. There’s nothing I can do about what happened yesterday whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, you just need to look forward and be ready for today.”
4. What did do between this year and last year to make the team?
“I had the opportunity of making the team, and all I thought about was keeping my pitches down in the zone, and not really worrying about anything else.”
5. How have you embraced the all-in call that Manager Hurdle has put out?
“You have to, you can’t do anything in this game halfway.”
6. On his unique ritual before warming up
“I just want to try and get everything going”
7. Trying to stay fresh for a 162 game schedule
“This is my first time in the bullpen, so it’s going to be a trial by error and learn by watching other people and how they do it and I’m going to try and take bits and pieces of guys that have had successful careers and see if I can mold that into something of my own.”
Manager Clint Hurdle
1. On Marcum
“It’s what he does when he’s effective. When he left, truth be told, we may have barreled one ball, Overbay’s single, Diaz snuck a single through the middle of the infield, but there were a lot of miss hits along the way. He changes speed very effectively.”
2. On Correia
“The one pitch hurt. The breaking ball- we wanted it down, and he left it up and Prince hit it to the biggest part of the ballpark.”
3. On whether it is true that people make Kevin pay for his mistakes
“Yeah. I think that’s accurate. As is the case with most pitchers unless you have top shelf velocity or something like that. If you hang a breaking ball in this league, you’re more than likely going to be backing up a base or rubbing up another one.”
4. On whether Correia had a play if he had gone after the bunt
“Well, we won’t know. We work very hard on our bunt defenses, we don’t have many of the ones we have. That one was a pitcher priority with a line. You all stood out there in Spring Training, and watched us go through our PFP’s all the time, and his priority was the line. If he gets to the ball, we have to throw to third in a nothing-nothing game. We had a chance of not facing three and four in their lineup, rather than having to.”
5. Do you ever look at the .500 threshold in terms of wins and losses?
“No. It’s too early. My focus on us is playing with complete games and finishing games, getting better in every aspect every day we’re out there. We weren’t able to generate any offense tonight. We made a couple of mistakes on the mound, and paid for them and those are the things I am focusing on.”
6. Evan Meek’s return back onto the mound and the bullpen
“It was very solid, I thought. I like the way that Crotta came back in and threw strikes, like the way Evan came in, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but it would be a big help to have him back in the back end of the bullpen again.”
7. After being called back into Hurdle’s office for “not talking enough about the team losing the game”, the statement given by Hurdle:
“We’ve optioned Jason Jaramillo back to Indianapolis and we will activate Chris Snyder for tomorrow’s game.”
1. The pitch to Prince Fielder
“I just hung it a little bit.”
2. Overshadow five good innings you had?
“No, it was a bad pitch but it never should have gotten to that. I should have been out of the inning before that, and just one play with the pitcher. I didn’t field the ball the way I needed to, so it is what it is.”
3. Think that bunt was going to go to Pedro?
“I had the line on that play, we’ve worked on it and worked on it. I threw the ball and I got over there, and I don’t know what, I think he just bunted it hard, and the grass kind of ate it up, but I’ve got to field that ball.”
4. What do you make of your first few innings?
“I was pitching well, just getting outs. It only takes one inning, and I had a bad inning at a bad time.”
5. Enjoying the pitching battle
“We had a good game plan and it was working, and I kind of went against it that inning, and I got hurt. I was staying with hard pitches down, and then I just flipped a curveball up there and I hadn’t thrown him that pitch yet, he was just on it.”
” I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on, obviously they had to make a move, so I’m going to go do my job, and try to get back up here as soon as possible.”
2. Benefit for playing more
“I’ve feel like I’ve shown that I deserve to play here, and was doing a great job.”
3. Take out of spring training
“The atmosphere and just what Clint has rubbed off of all of us and how much fun it is again. I’ve had a lot of fun here and learned a lot.”
1. On Marcum’s repertoire
“You don’t get to see what it does exactly, but I kind of have an idea of what he’s trying to do and he doesn’t make mistakes and when you’re down in the zone, you’re going to get a lot of groundballs, and he did a pretty good job tonight.”
2. Did Marcum do anything differently than what you prepared?
“No. He’s going to throw that pitch down and away or he’ll mix it in, mix the cutter in, and throw the changeup and he’s got a good changeup. You’ve got to see it a couple of times, and realize how good it is.“
3. On Marcum’s velocity possibly being down
“Usually that’s where he’s at, 84-86. That’s just one of those things where it looks good coming in, and then all of a sudden, he gets such late movement that by the time it gets to your barrel, it’s moved off the plate and you’re hitting it off of the end instead of barreling it up.”
1. How does it feel to be the closer?
“I feel good about it. Obviously, it’s an important three outs at the end of the game, and I feel like I can handle the job, and look forward to the opportunity.”
2. How do you feel that you’ve matured as a closer?
“I think it’s a little early to tell that, but obviously my mindset is to go out there and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself, when before every out was a pressure situation where I kind of take that pressure off myself and just go out there and have fun.”
3. What is the most important thing for you being in the closer’s role?
“Well there’s 24 other guys and eight coaches that are depending on me to finish the job and I just want to go out there and do it for everybody. It’s a team effort, and as long as we can all hold the lead in the ninth.
4. Any more exhilarating feeling for you than just the 1-2-3 ninth inning?
“That’s a great day any day you can do that. It’s a long season, long year, and the games are kind of long themselves, so once you get those three outs, everybody’s kind of relaxed a little bit more, and it’s one of the best feelings you can earn that day.”
5. Embracing Manager Hurdle’s all-in philosophy
“When I have a pair of pocket aces, I go all-in. You can tell that he’s definitely got our back, and that’s a big thing to know that a manager has your back, and it makes you want to play a little harder for him. We’re just trying to embrace everything that he’s trying to teach us, and use it out there in the game.”
6. How have you guys have struggled at home but done well on the road, a change from the past couple of seasons. How have you changed your success on the road ?
“Back to the home part, it’s been a tough home series for us, where got in late Wednesday night, and then turn around and play on Thursday morning where that was our first time coming to Pittsburgh, and half the team it is their first time being in Pittsburgh, and the adjustment period of being settled into your apartment, and trying to get back to the normal life is not easy. Our goal on the road, is to go up there and change the things that we did last year, and we started off good with the first road trip, and obviously we need to both at home and on the road.”
7. In your time, what have you made of the Pittsburgh-Milwaukee baseball rivalry?
“Well it’s kind of been one-sided and we need to do our part to turn that around. They’re a good swinging ballclub over there, and they’re going to play hard all of the time and we just need to step up a little bit against them.”
8. What do you make of the incidents that happened at the ballpark this home stand?
“It’s stupid. There’s no reason for anybody to go on the field during the game, and I’m not going to come into your office and streak through your office, that would be just stupid, right? It puts us in danger, because you never know what could be happening. The thing that happened the other night, apparently the guy was drunk, so it’s not safe for anybody. Better him going home with the cops then getting behind the wheel of a car.”
9. Anything else that you would like to add?
“No, I gotta go home bud.”
The Home Opener was great for me in every way besides the final score and from a ballhawking perspective, there were WAY too many fans and it made it tough to navigate and outfield toss-ups were seemingly out of the question. Still I snagged four balls and it was a great start.
I decided to make my goal for this game the exact same as the last game; four balls. This would be a tall task, as I was still under the weather and with the weather not being as great as it was during the home opener not many home runs would be hit.
I got to the ballpark quite early and was close to the front of the line and threw with Nick Pelescak and Erik Jabs on the Clemente Bridge. Both were at yesterday’s lengthy win against the Colorado Rockies but neither even came close to making it the distance as the weather got quite cold and most likely unbearable.
The throwing on the Clemente Bridge was the first time I was able to get a ball in my glove, so I knew that I would be ready for anything this game had.
Things got off to a rocky (again, no pun intended) start as I entered the ballpark rather quickly but with Erik and Nick ahead of me searching for Easter Eggs in the lower deck, I again went up to the bleacher general admission area and unfortunately found nothing. Erik and Nick each found a ball, right by the bullpen so I almost certainly would not have had anything anyways.
The Pirates portion of BP was rather slow for me, as all kinds of lefties came up. I always love a fellow lefty but myself and the other Pirates season ticket holders are only allowed in left field for the first half hour on weekdays and hour on weekends so this was bad. Pirates BP is likely not going to contribute much to my cause as only Matt Diaz really has the capability to hit the ball into the left field bleachers with much regularity. Hopefully Chris Snyder can come back soon so we have another reliable right presence to fill up our gloves.
I got shut out during the Pirates portion of BP because of this as well as because there were lots of girls and kids and they got all of the toss-ups so quite a slow time for me.
I quickly changed into my Rockies gear and sneaked up to the second level where I walked to the baseline box seating area. I actually could relax here, since the pitchers were only starting the long toss. I then realized that I had made another mistake, I had left my roster it home. It wouldn’t help anyways since almost all of the players had their numbers covered, but any little tidbit of information I can use is always appreciated.
So there were a couple of reasons why I made the trek to the baseline area. For one, nothing really otherwise was happening. That night’s pitcher Greg Reynolds was hitting and he doesn’t have the power to hit it into the left field bleachers and no one was there to toss us baseballs. Also, when someone does a long toss, there is a great chance for an overthrow and a baseball so for me, the decision was obvious.
Many of the Rockies pitchers were at different stages. I got into the wheelchair portion of section 1, and had my glove and waited for an overthrow.
As this happened I ran into my buddy Matt Lindstrom who ended up getting the save later on in the game. I call him my buddy because he was responsible for two important and historic snags of mine. He gave me ball number 69 last season which allowed me to meet the fifth goal I had set for myself last season of 64 baseballs, and also was my last ball of the season. He also gave me ball number 71 which put me over 70 and was the first player I ever got two balls from in two different uniforms.
Looking back at it now, I can’t help but realize how similar this moment felt to my 64th snag. The only possible difference besides the team was that I had the section entirely to myself.
Lindstrom struck a conversation with me as he did with the other two snags and said, “You may want to move back, these balls are coming fast and you may get hurt.” This was the first time in three conversations that he was not sarcastic to me and my first worry upon seeing him was that he would remember me from Thursday especially since I had the same outfit minus my yellow Pirates themed shoes I had on because I didn’t have room for my blue ones.
Lindstrom then told me, “Don’t worry, I will throw you a ball”. I found this all weird, because I did appreciate him telling me to be careful, but I had a glove and can catch and I would not have put myself that close to the action unless I was sure that I was safe.
Still I waited and sure enough Lindstrom called me out and threw me a ball. The toss was terribly underthrown but with no one around me I walked forward and picked up ball number 1.
I was still well behind the mark and needed to make at least one more snag. Enter Esmil Rogers. Rogers was the starter on Thursday for the Rockies and he was throwing with what looked to be Rafael Betancourt. When the two came to wrap up their session, Betancourt uncorked a wild and high throw which I fielded. Before Rogers had much time to think, I threw him back the ball. The toss was a little wobbly and feeble, but practically every toss is after you see how hard and accurate they throw the ball. After they finished, Rogers turned to me and fired ball number 2. The ball itself was my 75th career snag and put me only 25 more snags away from the century mark.
I then played center field for the Rockies portion of BP. Nothing much came our way home run wise and no matter how hard I tried none of the toss-ups were going my way. I even started to try to ask Ubaldo Jimenez to throw me the ball in Spanish and my voice is shot.
Frustrated mostly because nothing was coming my way, I decided to take on the challenge of right field. I was right about where I expected to be and figured a change of scenary could better things. There were quite a few homers hit to right so I figured why not give it a shot. The last ball of bp was a homer to right, but I was a couple of rows low and a section away and could not make up the ground fast enough. With that BP was over and I had to assess the situation.
Things were not looking bleak for a four ball day quite yet as there still was potential. Colston, my friend who also went to the game did a full walk of the second floor. We said a nice hello to a family friend for a while and then continued on. The new main attraction is a store with Pirates memorabilia with Hunt Auctions. The prices were ludicris, seriously $60 for a Clint Hurdle signed baseball. $110 for a signed Andrew McCutchen? Really? I didn’t even give it a serious look after that, I find that to be so insulting and you would have to be a moron to overpay that badly. Ok, I digress, this is a post about my ballhawking.
We finally made it to the bullpen and waited for Charlie “Electric Stuff” Morton to grace us with his sinker and his presence. After a while he did and although I tried I did not get any toss-ups from either him or the seemingly always reliable Herbie Andrade.
Defeated, I went to my seat and re-assessed my situation. I was still at two balls, an average fan has not snagged two baseballs in their entire time yet in less than two short years, my outlook on this has drastically changed. I was going to have to snag an Andrew McCutchen toss-up and then get some help from the bullpen. The centerfield sections were all packed which meant that being in section 141, I had only one chance to get the toss-up.
McCutchen had the toss-ups in the odd innings, and I paid close attention to where he threw the baseball both times so I could position myself properly.
Before the fifth inning toss-up though, I tried my luck at the bullpen and that did not work so well. The bullpen was never crowded at all that entire night which I have never experienced, and sure enough I always was given the best spot I possibly could have, I just was dealt every bad card in the deck. I came over twice before the McCutchen toss-up, and left again sprinting to center to choose my position.
Erik had already chosen his position and the spot I was eying actually was still there. It was directly behind the last row before the two steps leading to the section. There was not anyone in those seats so I was in the clear. When it came time for McCutchen to toss it up, I had a good vibe. His throw sailed to my right and was short and it was going to take a miracle. I tracked the path of the ball and at least two people bobbled it. For once, the ball bounced right into my waiting glove for the luckiest ball number three that I will ever have.
I still have not gone to bed yet, and as I type this part of the blog it is 1:25 AM here in Pittsburgh and I am running on empty. As a journalist it is something that I am actually quite used to.
There is a reason why I am probably not fast asleep right now. Outfielder Seth Smith hit a home run to right center to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead in that top part of the fifth and it was very close to where I was standing. It would have been a rather easy catch, not nearly as easy as the Hunter Pence home run I described in a previous blog post, because this one was on the fly, but there would have been no competition for it. As it stands, the ball two hopped into the river where it hit either a boat or a raft or something like that.
As the night continued, it got colder and colder and I only had a Pirates t-shirt and Pirates Dugout Jacket to warm my body. I was by the bullpen as I had no chance to snag another toss up as right field was packed, left field was packed and Jose Tabata just throws it without much care and center was still packed. I was trying to snag a ball, when a lot of noise came from the bleacher general admission area.
Earlier a few people were thrown out of the ballpark in that area and were escorted by police. This time a man was not cooperating after a few police took him down the stairs and they beat and tased him before arresting him. This led to a lot of people in that area chanting many things such as “U-S-A! U-S-A!”. The police threatened to beat others who interfered with them and I saw a lot of this happen as I was close by in the bullpen area. The police took a good handful or so of people to the Riverwalk where one woman was arrested and a man who took a couple of steps to oppose the decision and defend her was almost beaten himself. The section in general was just drunk out of their minds and it impaired their decision making abilities. It was quite sad to watch especially after a fan ran onto the field on Thursday’s game. As an aside, one woman was so drunk that when she was arrested, she couldn’t walk and thus had to be taken out on a wheelchair.
I still had business of my own to tend to. The Pirates would go on to lose the game 6-4 despite a nice attempt at a rally in the ninth inning against my “buddy” Lindstrom. After the game was over I wanted to snag my fourth ball to meet my goal. I had already given one ball away and saw a very young kid and immediately wanted to give this ball away too. I saw a ball in Euclides Rojas’ glove and neither Rojas nor Herbie would initially throw it despite calling their names. The kid was still there and I assured his mother that I would try my best to get it.
I finally got a hold of Herbie, and explained to him that the ball would be for the kid and sure enough he underhanded it to me for an easy ball number four. I immediately made sure to give it to the kid and he was so excited and had the biggest smile on his face. His parents seemed just as happy as he was and it clearly was his first ball. Thanks Herbie!
Just like that, I reached my goal for the game. Every second literally counted as it took until after the game was over to get there. There was potential for more snags of course but through two days of snagging while ill, I had snagged four balls on both days for a total of eight baseballs. Last year I started with four in two games and already I am well ahead of that margin. I likely need to get 21 by the end of the month, so this is a good start and I am more than 33% of the way there.
My next day of ballhawking will either be on Wednesday or Thursday and I am not sure as to which one. There is a chance that I will be a media member on Wednesday and if I am, then obviously I will not ballhawk. If I am not, I will purchase a ticket to that game and ballhawk. Then on Thursday, I can ballhawk from 5:00 until 5:30 and then I will be whisked away and be named Season Ticket Holder of the Month. Also on Tuesday, I will snag on the Riverwalk outside of the stadium. This takes a lot of focus and luck, but if I get lucky, then I could end up with a baseball or two. Here’s hoping that Prince Fielder hits the cover off of the ball.
Total Baseballs Snagged: 8
Total Baseballs Given Away: 3
Games Attended: 2
You have worked blood, sweat and tears for this organization this Spring, and you should be commended for your efforts. Tomorrow is Friday, and thus your first game of the season. Let’s take a look at yourselves as a team.
Chris Snyder. You are injured and thus you cannot start for us, and we are upset. Now we have to trust Ryan Doumit who we have wanted out of here for the longest time. You are defensively capable but offensively incapable. When you come back you need to be consistent.
Ryan Doumit. Who made Jack Black our team’s starting catcher? Your offense can be good but your defense is TERRIBLE. Throwing out less than 10% of runners trying to steal base is an atrocity, and you do not belong in the Major Leagues, but here you are not only in a Pirate unform but starting. Charlie Sheen thinks that you are winning, but that does not amount for much anymore. In the words of Princess Leia, you are our only hope, because Jason Jaramillo as a starter is just as bad.
Neil Walker. The Pittsburgh Kid. Considering that you had to adapt to play yet another new position is tough enough but at times you showed Gold Glove capabilities. Bill Mazeroski a Pittsburgh legend helped you with mechanics and you tried to soak it in. It is important that you do not have a sophomore slump and the city is your for the taking, and this is your make it or break it season.
Ronny Cedeno. What can I say about a man who draws Sharpies and calls them mustaches? Well you can’t hit, you can’t field, what can you do right? You give us fits and there is no one better? Why don’t we have money for a real shortstop? Here, I am going to drop a baseball. Just like i thought, through the legs. Why are you still even here?
Pedro Alvarez. Your weight is an issue, but that was even before this season. You are outgrowing your position and thus the plays that separate a good third baseman from a great one and Alvarez is only good at best. You are our offense, you mash the ball but do not get frustrated by your average as that is the way you play and you should not change that.
Jose Tabata. You have packed on the muscles and we can tell. Your speed is a must as we expect you to run around the bases all of the time. You need to mash the homers and be a part of this offense. You are a part of the future, so failure is not an option.
Andrew McCutchen. We can tell that you want to win. You are the best CF in the majors but we have some concerns. Off the field, you are a scumbag, conceited and careless. You need to start driving people in and that is a glaring part of your game. You are the future and already are a good player, but it is time to become great, don’t you think?
Garrett Jones. You can mash righties on a good basis, but based on your rookie campaign, your power numbers are down. Please hit for a good average, and who knows, maybe you or this next guy could get traded.
Matt Diaz. Time to speed up and buy into the program. You can hit lefties, but some more power needs to be seen. Let’s find out if you can handle that right field wall, no one really has.
I am calling all of you out. Along with defense, you are the main issue on this team. Ray Searage can only do so much. He doesn’t pitch the baseball, he only gives you the advice. It is your job to listen to what he has to say and to pitch with confidence. The bullpen cannot win games all by themselves (I’m talking to you Ross, Charlie and Paul) and that means you actually have to suck it up and pitch. There are no more excuses.
Despite what I just said about the starters, no one is perfect. We have been losing for 18 seasons now and you will have to come in at tight spots or when the outcome of a game has already been decided. Regardless, pitch strong and attack the hitter. Joel, please prove to us that you can choose games. You failed to do that in Washington and were a mixed bag last season. Pitch with a purpose.
Josh Rodriguez. What are you doing here? Neal said that nothing about you was special and the fact of the matter is that your precious rule-5 status is keeping you here by a thread. Our infield stinks defensively and you do not help that at all. Even in Spring Training everyone from the top of the organization to the bottom said you weren’t anything and normally would be one of the first to be sent down. You better perform or you will be let go faster than we can say bobble head.
Steve Pearce. You made the Opening Day Roster for the first time so congratulations. You were persistant and eliminated the leg kick from your swing which will help you in the log run. Best of luck on sticking in the bigs this season.
Clint Hurdle. You need to stick to your guns. This team has a ton of personality and you can handle it, but do not lose the locker room. They are completely buying in to what you are saying and that means that you need to stay relevant to them. Practice what you preach. Make sure they run and let that know that losing is NOT an option.
Tomorrow is the big day men, Opening Day is upon us in the windy city. You have worked all off-season for this. No one expects us to contend, but why can’t we? These fans deserve a winner, and it’s time to go all in and get the job done.
Pitcher with the most to prove:
1. Ross Ohlendorf- Ohlendorf is a great guy, but he only had one win last year. He pitched quite well last season but never received any run support. This year he got a huge raise in $2.1 million and he will have to pitch well and stay healthy.
2. Kevin Correia- Correia pitched himself out of the San Diego Padres rotation while they were in the middle of the playoff race. Correia pitched with a heavy heart as his brother passed away and this season will have to prove that the Pirates made a smart decision in signing him. Thus far, it has not looked like a great investment as he has looked overmatched in Spring Training, but only time will tell.
3. Charlie Morton- Morton is expected to be the team’s fifth starter, and if he pitches the way he did early last year, then the team will struggle mightily. Morton has shown that he has been capable of pitching well, bouncing back from an Andrew Jones home run earlier this week and then calming down to take down the Yankees. If Morton can control his emotions and his pitching, then it could very well inspire his teammates.
4. Joel Hanrahan- Hanrahan has emerged as the closer, but he has to prove to management that he can handle the job. He was traded from the Washington Nationals due to his inability to close games. He “shared” closing duties last year with Evan Meek, although he closed almost all of the games. He blew a few games and thus I am concerned that he cannot finish the job.
Winner: Charlie Morton
Morton showed a lot of promise as a September call-up and even further by his willingness to go to the Dominican Winter League to work on his makeup. I think this season could be the season Pirates management expected from Morton in 2009 but if he does not succeed, then the Pirates may lose their patience with him.
Hitter with the most to prove:
1. Matt Diaz- Diaz was signed during the off-season and will be splitting time in right field with Garrett Jones. This experiment happened before when the Pirates got Lastings Milledge. Milledge like Diaz said the right things, but ultimately underachieved. At this very moment, Diaz is hitting .308 this Spring and will have to perform well.
2. Jose Tabata- Tabata came up and at least in my opinion underachieved. I expected so much and his playing of left field was not great and only had speed. This off-season he has clearly bulked up and hopefully will have a much better season. He is in the Pirates future plans, but this season could be an indicator to how he does offensively.
3. Pedro Alvarez- Alvarez was rumored to gain weight this off-season in what was considered the biggest no-big deal story of the Pirates off-season. Pedro is being compared to Adam Dunn and will need to rack up the home runs and have moments like that walk-off home run in Colorado. He a huge part to the Pirates offense so if he fails, so does this team.
4. Ronny Cedeno- Cedeno is an average defender and a below average hitter. He is hitting .217 this Spring and is only starting because there is no one who can replace him, although Pedro Ciriaco is having a nice spring. Cedeno needs to have a good season, or else there will not be any real reason to keep him in the lineup.
Winner: Matt Diaz
Cedeno is right up there but Diaz is going to be a big part of the offense especially since we could always use help hitting southpaws.
Finally here are my thoughts for 2011 season predictions.
Team MVP: Andrew McCutchen
Cutch is the best all-around player on this team and should put up similar numbers to last season.
Ryan Doumit will be released and not traded.
Paul Maholm will be traded to the New York Yankees and either Matt Diaz or Garrett Jones will be traded.
Pirates will have another winning April and will once again fall apart in May
Charlie Morton will have the most wins on the staff followed by Ross Ohlendorf, although no starter will have double digit wins
Jeff Karstens will somehow get back into the starting rotation
Brad Lincoln will come up to the big club and perform well
Rudy Owens will struggle when he comes up a la Brad Lincoln. He will be Brad Lincoln 2.0
Chris Snyder will continue the catching curse and he will get injured and Dusty Brown and Jason Jaramillo will platoon a la Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz from a couple seasons ago.
Pirates will steal bases left and right… and will largely be successful
Cutch will be the Pirates lone All-Star this season
It will be the Pirates hitting that sets them back as Ray Searage will do a good job as Pirates pitching coach
The Pirates will have a 42-39 record at home and thus will have road issues once again.