This would be my only game of this series as the next day I had a press pass to cover for a news outlet and I despise most Sunday games.
This game was a nightmare from the start. I finally decided to get my season tickets and I went through the glass doors at 3:15 desperately trying to call my season ticket representative that was not picking up. Finally at 4 he came down and it was nice to talk to him. Still I had to wait for all of my tickets to print and I knew it was going to be tough. I was not going to be able to throw or anything. The wait was endless.
Finally at 4:20 I got my tickets and BP was spared for me, but the effect was taken. I had no time to get in my zone and I knew it was going to be a rough day.
I would get on the board during the Pirates portion of BP. Gaby Sanchez came up and hit an arching shot. I had a good play on it as a couple fans in front played it incorrectly. It was fading from me though, and I knew I had one shot at it as people were running in on it. Without looking, I flung my glove which was on the bottom left to the top right guessing the location. It looked like a hockey goalie trying to make a save out of position. I was able to grab the ball for ball #1 on the day. A lot of people seemed impressed.
I then went over to Jason Grilli to get him to sign the baseball. That was my main mission as one of my college professors had promised to give me $20 for my charity initiative if I got a Pirate to sign his baseball. I came through and got to talk to ‘J Grills’
Pirates BP and all of Reds BP were dead for me. I just never got into it.
I knew how to get ball #2 and I was right as Reds first base coach Billy Hatcher again hooked me up. This was huge as this would be baseball #450 for my ballhawking career.
Ball #3 came from the man Euclides Rojas and was the ball A.J. Burnett used to warm up.
The Pirates won this game 6-5 and would sweep the series against the NL Central favorite.
I would ballhawk four days later but based on the weather forecast went somewhere else. Where did I go and how did I do? You’ll have to read my next post.
It finally was that time. A full batting practice and I was excited. I knew it was going to be cold outside but that would be fine. I was just hoping that it would all be worth it.
I got to the game around 3:45 and stretched a bit ready to go after another 45 minutes in the gym a day after five hours. Despite too much time in the gym, I was feeling fresh and ready to go. Unfortunately, the throwing session did not last long as both balls were overthrown into the water and it was not my doing.
I got into this game for free but still do not have a season ticket plan, so Ian Weir gets a shout out for getting me in.
My running was fine although my speed was down a bit due to the gym.
I have changed my strategy this year and will not hog the corner by the foul pole like I did last year. I think it makes my chances better and makes my range better.
While it was cold, I was only one to start batting practice with just one shirt- a short sleeve shirt. I was not going to be affected by the weather and went short sleeves for both teams BP.
There were no Easter Eggs but I saw a season ticket holder I talk to getting Mark Melancon’s autograph, so I wanted to see if I could get him to sign my glove. Instead a ball bounced on to the warning track and when I had his attention I asked him for it. Other ballhawks asked him for the toss up but he had already told me it was mine so I snagged ball number one. Thanks Mark!
The ball was not an opening day commemorative. The rumor was that they would be floating around during BP, but they never showed up.
With that ball in my pocket, Russell Martin came up to the plate and he mashed a ball and it was going to be a scrum between myself and Nick. We both overplayed it, but my left hand just beat his glove for ball #2. I did tell Nick good hustle, he thanked me and we slapped gloves and moved on to the next snag.
Ball #3 came from a toss up from Jason Grilli, who says he is throwing up ‘one ball to all of us and then you’re on your own’. Hey I appreciated the help and shook his hand. When Scoonz and I just missed a homer, he asked us what happened. I told him, ‘two words: anorexic Jew’ and he was cracking up. In reality, I am up 18 pounds and in the best health of my life but I make fun of myself all of the time.
That was it for Pirates BP. I got nothing during Cubs BP because frankly it was the worst display I’ve ever seen. It was embarrassing. The fact this Pirates team lost twice to them is ridiculous.
The Pirates would win today behind a great pitching effort from Wandy Rodriguez but my day was not over.
Ballhawk Rick Sporcic joined me at the bullpen and as Wandy was throwing he told me that Rodriguez was using an Opening Day commemorative. When he was done, the man Euclides Rojas threw it up to me, but in a joking mood, Rick took a swipe at it. He had snagged two of them Monday at the opener.
I knew that this was my only shot and Rick backed off after the joke. Euclides and Herbie Andrade took what felt like an eternity. I went to this game just to get this ball and finally I asked Euclides for the ball. It was the first time I had actually asked him for a ball since the middle of last season. The result was ball number 4. But was it comemorative? Let’s see.
Yeah baby! But something felt off. Oh wait, that’s better:
It was really cold at this point but I stayed because it was $1 hot dog night.
I even had a cheering section.
Scoonz, Ian, Rick and I all stuck together in section 140, and I just missed the fifth inning toss up from Andrew McCutchen as he pointed to me with his glove but of course under threw it by a considerable amount.
The Pirates would win today and during the game, Scoonz and I decided to come back the next game with section 125 going for $6. There would be no BP on Thursday. How would I do? My next entry will let you know.
It was Opening Day and excitement was in the air, or was that snow? I’m still not quite sure.
I actually have not purchased a season ticket plan, yet despite a sell out, I got into this game for free. I had to go to the Rivers Casino to get my ticket, but now that I’m 21, I was allowed to go in. Naturally, I gave in to the temptation and played some blackjack to get me into the Opening Day spirit and I doubled my money leaving with $80. Not a bad start.
After some tailgating, I went into line and threw on the bridge. Then it was back into line where I started Dufnering, the pose modeled after something PGA Tour golfer Jason Dufner did in a community appearance at a school.
In case you could not tell, it was cold and it was snowing meaning no batting practice which stunk. Still I went in and did not find any Easter eggs which stunk but at least I got to pose with my buddy Randy Page better known as Big Yellow.
So with nothing to do, I went through the concourse area with Ian Weir and Scoonz and saw some cool things. Scoonz got four game balls in a grab bag which was cool to see. I was freezing at that point so we all recovered for a few minutes in the Pirates Clubhouse Store and then went separate ways.
I went to the bullpen in hopes of salvaging the day when I finally saw my buddy, Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas. Euclides was great to me but we never got a chance to talk at the last game of the season because I came late, even when he left I never heard anything and I was concerned about how that would affect me this season.
He seemed excited to see me though as we did our traditional wave. Ian had joined me at that point and Nick and Erik were trying to salvage their days so they were in the area as well.
All of a sudden I heard ‘catch’ and I had this, ball number 1.
Take a wild guess who threw it up. If you guessed Rojas then you are right.
He also hooked up Ian during that time. Then I settled in to watch A.J. Burnett warm-up.
This also was my first chance to see Russell Martin.
While those two were warming up, I got a chance to catch up with Nick and also see Andrew McCutchen get his Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
When Burnett was done though Rojas had two baseballs and he tossed one to Nick and another one to me for ball number 2. Thanks Euclides!
As for the game, the Pirates offense laid an egg against starter Jeff Samardzija. Burnett had a nice outing however the two run homer he allowed to Anthony Rizzo is the one pitch he wants back.
Still it was a cold day and I did leave after the seventh inning stretch, so I unfortunately was unable to see the Pirates score in the ninth inning but come back short.
It was great to see so many familiar faces even though it was cold and the offense did not show up.
Not a bad day but there would be no baseball the next night and I would have to wait until Wednesday. Still I ended up doing five hours in the gym on my ‘day off’ in the hopes of snagging four baseballs on Wednesday to give me 445 snags on my career. You will have to read my next post to find out if I reached that goal and going an Opening Day Commemorative baseball, the ultimate goal of the series.
Yes like last year, I am counting the baseballs I snagged during workout day. PNC Park ballhawks count these and the rational is that other ballhawks in other cities do the same and Home Run Derby snags count as well so here goes nothing.
It was a very cold day, and this was the first time I would see all of the PNC Park ballhawks.
I was the first to arrive and while I had to enter a different gate it was great to be back home.
I gave myself plenty of time to stretch. It was a cold day, but as the other ballhawks learned as the Opening Series dragged on, I did not care what the temperature was, I was going to wear what I felt would help me move best. Thankfully Colston would come right before the gates opened, so I went with just this in the 30 degree weather.
Reaction went from ‘mad respect’ to my buddy Pirates reliever Chris Leroux who I got to talk to later who said ‘you’re going to get hypothermia’. He thought I was nuts, and I can’t blame him. For those who don’t see, I am wearing a long sleeve performance Under Armour shirt, while everyone else bundled up in coats and up to three layers.
Eventually the ballhawks showed up and we all had our first official throwing session while dealing with the occasional rain drop. Even Colston joined in the session. My arm wasn’t great but my location was fine and more importantly I was not dropping the throws.
When we went in I was trying to figure out what would be the best course of action. I saw Hector Rondon and Carlos Villanueva over on the first side and flanked by Erik Jabs and Robbie a.k.a. Scoonz we went over. Last year I was the first one to snag a ball thanks to Clint Hurdle but this year the honor went to Scoonz who just was closest to Villanueva. Villanueva was not responding to us. I figured the ball would go to Erik however Scoonz stuck his ground and I was jogging to the dugout in case it got that far. Oh well, glad to see Scoonz get on the board, he’s going to turn a lot of heads this year with a great snagging season.
Don’t feel too bad for me though, I would get on the board 10 minutes later. Two random Cubs people [not players] were throwing and when they were done, the one coach threw me a curve ball that I caught for ball number one. The person that threw it is on the right of this picture.
After that I was unable to get any more baseballs from any of the Cubs relievers. I was able to talk to Cubs Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija, who would ultimately shut the Pirates down the next day. As a result, I got this.
First base coach Rick Sofield then did something I’ve never seen before. He took a bat and started hitting line drives as hard as he could off the wall and various angles to see what would happen. Apparently the players rolled their eyes, while the outfielders picked up the balls. When he came down to the first base line, I was honestly worried he would hit me. Then he decided to hit me one and I think to myself, I’ve got this and that I’d impress him by going barehanded.
He hits and I’m thinking ‘I’ve got this, no big deal’. Then when the ball was halfway there I had a bad feeling and missed it. To give you an idea of how hard he hit it, the ball deflected off my hand and flew back on to the field. Despite the hit and cold weather it didn’t hurt at all. For those asking, yes I should have gloved the ball but I was not thinking clearly. It was Workout Day for me too. Clearly I still needed to iron out some of the kinks.
Sofield jokingly gave me a hard time and Coach Dave Jauss seemed to feel sorry for me and said to me, ‘lefty, here’s a ball’. Perfect, thanks Mr. Jauss for ball number 2.
After laughing that one off I waited for BP to start. I got in a great position and quickly two fouls balls were hit and I snagged them for balls 3 and 4. The fourth snag was in a scrum and when I went back to my spot, someone else took it, and that alone would cost me four baseballs. Cutting my losses, I switched to a different location.
The move was to the third base side of foul territory and after a few minutes I quickly caught up with Leroux. We had a couple of conversations during the off-season. Chris told me he has really been working hard to get into the shape he was in before his injury last season. He is ready for this season and may surprise.
Regardless, he snagged a ball, saw me and made a goofy throw that I caught for ball number 5. Thanks Chris!
That would be all I got for Workout Day. It was great to experience the familiar sites, sounds, smells and even the people.
Still, the time for sentimentality was over as the next day was Opening Day, something I still believe should be a national holiday. There would not be batting practice so how would I do? Make sure you read my next post to find out.
This is way late but here is a run down of award winners based on last season:
MVP: Easily this goes to Andrew McCutchen. All the man did was lead the team, hit for some power, bat some guys in, nearly win the batting average race, get contract security, become even more involved in the community and finish third in MVP voting. Did I mention that the best is yet to come? A.J. Burnett finishes second.
LVP: I would say Rod Barajas here just because the Pirates made a big investment in him and he failed in pretty much every area. Yes the guy was great for the clubhouse and created the Zoltan ‘Z’ that became the team’s theme, but he couldn’t hit a lick and struggled to throw out runners.
Most Improved: I’ll give it to Pedro Alvarez. Everyone was questioning if he was the answer and he put up a nice 30 homer season. There still are questions because he is streaky, but a job well done in 2012 for Alvarez. James McDonald likely would have won this award had he shown up in the second half.
Top Moment: As much as I’ve blasted the guy, it’s Rod Barajas hitting the walk-off home run against the Washington Nationals. I remember where I was sitting when that happened and I will admit that I booed him but that first pitch fastball by Henry Rodriguez is history and as I said above was the berth of the Zoltan ‘Z’.
Lowest Moment: Tough call but I would say the Atlanta Braves series at the end of the year. The crowds packed PNC Park and this team looked capable of breaking the streak and the Braves series made it official; the streak would turn 20 years. It was just things piling up again and it was a hard pill to swallow for Pirates fans.
Best Mid-season Acquisition: I’ll give it to Wandy Rodriguez. Travis Snider had that great catch late in the season at Citi Field, but a hamstring injury hampered his power potential. To boot, Jose Tabata has come back and had a great spring meaning Snider’s leash may be shorter. Wandy’s strikeouts are down, but as the number two man in the rotation he will be that lefty in between A.J. Burnett and James McDonald. It helps that he is durable and went over 200 innings pitched last season.
Best broadcaster: I’ll give it to Tim Neverett. Good voice and sound for the game. Bob Walk is too goofy for me when I want just the facts, Greg Brown is too excited, John Wehner’s voice does not do it for me and Steve Blass is inconsistent for me. Oh and you can follow Neverett on Twitter @TimNeverett. Yes replacing Lanny Frattare is hard, but Neverett is holding his own.
Coaches of the Year: Well let’s see. Clint Hurdle lost the team for a second year in a row, Jeff Banister does not impress me much, Luis Silverio and Nick Leyva not great with base paths, Ray Searage had tired arms, Euclides Rojas coached a bullpen that collapsed in the second half and Mark Strittmatter coached a catching tandem that could not throw anyone out. So who does that leave? Bill Mazeroski and Bill Virdon, that’s who. They were 1-0 as coaches winning over the Twins before being forced to leave. That’s a winning record in my book. As for worst coach, it’s hard to pick just one.
As for a season prediction it’s tough. I have this Pirates team finishing third but it will be tough. This team does not get to face the Astros 12 times a season with the switch to the AL, and they will have to find ways to get those wins. The Pirates have to take advantage early of the Cardinals and Brewers dealing with injuries. Yes this Pirates team has a lot of what ifs but I do think an 80-82 season is possible and ultimately what will happen.
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.
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.
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.