Opening Day is only one week away but the Pirates have made their fans very excited by conducting a workout day on Wednesday the day before the home opener.
The event is free and the Highmark Legacy Square entrance in left field, next to the ticket windows is where the fans will go in at 2:30.
The Pirates will be taking BP at 3 PM and the Phillies will be hitting at 5 PM.
The event is free and so far the Pirates have confirmed that left field will be open. According to a Pirates customer service representative, other sections that will be open are up to Manager Clint Hurdle and a few others. The representative said that upper deck sections will be closed as will section 101 since the Budweiser Bowtie Bar will not be completed.
Be sure to satisfy your baseball hangover by attending the fun event and see how the players prepare for Opening Day.
Earlier this week, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle announced that Erik Bedard will start the home opener April 5th vs the Phillies. He also named his four man rotation, which is as follows.
1. Erik Bedard
2. Jeff Karstens
3. James McDonald
4. Kevin Correia
There definitely are positives and negatives to Bedard starting:
1. Bedard will be starting his third opener, which means he knows what to expect and can tune out the distractions that surround the opener. All of the players and coaches from both teams will be introduced and things tend to run long, as the Pirates have all kinds of honors and awards and thus Bedard may be the right man for the job.
2. Bedard has looked impressive during Spring Training and Hurdle is awarding him for this. You can’t go wrong with going with a hot hand.
3. Bedard is a ground ball pitcher which favors the Pirates well. Clint Barmes and Neil Walker are a solid defensive middle infield and should have no problem handling any of the grounders that are hit their way.
4. Bedard could be a silent leader, and has had successful seasons. A great start and a win over Roy Halladay could be what this team needs. It could fire up a young pitching staff and be what makes this team finally become consistent winners.
5. Phillies hit .247 against Bedard with 19 hits in 77 at-bats. Jimmy Rollins hits .182 against Bedard with two strikeouts in 11 at-bats. Jim Thome is a .263 hitter against Bedard in 19 at-bats. While he does have a homer and two RBI against him, Thome has struck out six times against Bedard. Shane Victorino has zero hits in two at-bats against Bedard. Ty Wigginton is a .259 hitter against Bedard and has struck out nine times in 27 at-bats vs Bedard.
1. Hurdle brings a lefty out to start the opener. The Pirates do not have another lefty in the rotation, and that means that teams will face four righties in a row often times. It is not a great balance and could come back to haunt the Pirates.
2. Roy Halladay is the starter and Halladay does not make many mistakes. Bedard had a rough 2011 season which included injury. With no Ryan Howard or Chase Utley in the lineup, and Raul Ibanez on the New York Yankees, the lefty power bats are all gone. Starting Bedard would have been ideal last year, but now those lefties are gone and that strategy is out of the window.
3. Jeff Karstens had the best 2011 of the Pirates pitchers and is one of the longer tenured Pirates. Despite a few too many walks, he has been solid this Spring Training and has been consistent much like last season. It makes no sense that the Pirates do not reward Karstens by having him take the mound on the home opener. Not to mention that Karstens survived a tense atmosphere and had a very good start against the Phillies at PNC Park last season.
4. His injury history still is a concern. Yes it is a concern no matter when injuries happen, but if Bedard gets injured on the opener it would be disaster. With A.J. Burnett out and Charlie Morton likely not 100% ready for the season right now, this could put the Pirates in a downward spiral. The Pirates pride themselves on quick starts, and they already may have the toughest opening month in the majors.
I am typing this entry to break some major news to Pittsburgh Pirates fans, especially season ticket holders:
On Saturday’s PirateFest session back in December I met with Dennis DaPra, who is charge of PNC Park. Myself as well as fellow season ticket holders Erik Jabs and Nick Pelescak have all thought opening the gates at 4:30 during weekday nights was the way to go instead of the 5:00 gate time which has been the way PNC Park has operated in recent memory and our idea gained support from many Pirates season ticket holders. Dennis seemed very receptive of the idea at PirateFest and we left it there that I would email a letter I had written to him and he would discuss it with others at the ballpark.
I sent this letter to him and he replied the very next day that he appreciated me following up and would review it and then contact me as soon as possible.
I had not heard back as of earlier this week, so I sent an email this past Monday just to see if everything was going ok and if there was any progress that was made. I received an email almost instantly which said they were discussing the possibility and that he hoped to respond back to me as soon as possible. This got me very excited, as I knew that they were indeed seriously considering it.
To my surprise, I got a phone call from Pittsburgh Pirates, and I quickly realized that today was the moment of truth as I found out that it was Dennis on the other line. He said that he had discussed the possibility and told me that Mondays thru Saturdays the gates would open at 4:30, my letter was successful.
I can confirm that this is 100% true and was told that season ticket holders will receive something in the mail and this change will be advertised on the Pirates website and twitter feed.
Now the gates opening at 4:30 changes things for the weeknight games but not Saturday as this is the same time as before. Tradionally as I had said before, the gates would open at 5. Now remember, this is for night games only, so if a game is at Wednesday at 12:35 PM, then obviously the gates will not open at 4:30. Here is some more info on this change:
. The only gate that will open at 4:30 at these times (weekdays and Saturday afternoons) is the Clemente Gate which for those who do not know is right off of the Clemente Bridge and is the Center Field Entrance.
. Everything in terms of getting in is the exact same. You will go in and if you are a season ticket holder be allowed to go in for batting practice. If you are not, then you will have to wait until you are allowed in.
The only two things I do not know are:
1. Will you have to show your season ticket ID card (other team’s fans try to buy season tickets off of Stubhub so that they can get in early)? This could be very important.
2. At 5:00 will everyone be allowed into left field, or will they have to wait until 5:30?
This news is very huge as now fans will be able to witness an almost complete Pirates batting practice. Usually when us season ticket holders are getting in, the Pirates are running off of the field. Part of the season ticket benefits are a chance to see your Pirates hit and seeing them for two minutes is not suffice.
This also will allow children to experience their first memory with a Pirate.
With so many rained out BP sessions, last season was a bummer for many, however this change definitely makes me even more excited for the upcoming season.
All in all this enhances the season ticket experience, and I am glad that I wrote the letter. Hopefully this will boost the Pirates season ticket sales, and allow many to have an even more enjoyable experience.
A huge thanks definitely goes to Dennis and everyone at PNC Park for making this change happen.
I will update with any info if necessary on any uncertainties I posted above, but it is a great day to be a Pirates season ticket holder and only 10 days until pitchers and catchers report.
Update: I got one of my questions answered, and to get in for the season ticket holder portion of BP, you have to have either a season ticket or a season ticket holder ID card which will be mailed to you before the start of the season. This is the same policy as in seasons past.
From the desk of Zachary M. Weiss
August 27, 2011
Dear Pittsburgh Pirates Organization,
I write to you today to make a very simple request, please fix the PNC Park experience for those of us who have been faithful to you. You brag about being the ‘best ballpark in America’ but in order to achieve this status you need to treat those fans that have been loyal for all of these years with some more respect; the season ticket holders.
There is a reason why us season ticket holders pay for our tickets, some of which are quite expensive and that is to watch the team, however, we also love meeting the players and getting to know them. Every weekday, the gates open at precisely 5 O’Clock and this is a problem. By the time us season ticket holders get into left field to watch the team hit, they are off the field. We are lucky to even see our team hit for three minutes, and it is a true shame.
It is my belief that opening the gates at 4:30 on weekday and Saturday games is very reasonable. It would allow for season ticket holders to experience an almost entire batting practice. This allows for us season ticket holders to enjoy a more complete experience each game. By allowing people such as myself see our players, whom children consider heroes, get some signatures or even try to catch a baseball or two, we would be very grateful. Us season ticket holders are a family, and these 81 home games are all we have together because of various things going on in our lives.
Another issue are the ushers that come in early. Many of them come into left field and pocket the baseballs. First and foremost, Major League Baseball prohibits ushers from collecting baseballs. Secondly, it would be nice to see us season ticket holders get at least some of them. I mean, I can understand the occasional baseball being picked up for the intention of giving it to a child, but there is a fine line. It also looks even worse when you are trying to go for a baseball, and ushers are running for the ball and stealing it as you clearly see them doing it. For many, it is a thrill to get a baseball, and my thrill in getting each baseball is raising money for The Children’s Institute, a great organization that does a lot of great things for some amazing children.
Each baseball they pocket is a potential $4.50 out the window and also excludes children. Also something to consider is that some season ticket holders support my initiative by pledging money towards my cause. Just think about it, ushers may have one baseball to give to a child, but that excludes the thousands of other kids that come to each game. Let’s keep it fair for everyone and make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.
One final issue I have that is worth mentioning, is something that was brought up by a staffer that us season ticket holders run into on a semi-regular to regular basis. To get in to early batting practice, a season ticket holder must present their season ticket holder ID card or ticket; however this is where the problem arises.
Many season ticket holders cannot make it to certain games, and thus place their tickets to ticket re-sellers such as Stubhub. Out of town people, fans of opposing teams and others then acquire these tickets and then pass the scanner to get season ticket holder BP time. It is my belief that in order to get in early for this time, that you must present your season ticket ID in order to get into left field. In the end, we all want the Pirates to succeed; we are all season ticket holders and furthermore fans of the team. We all just want our experiences to be more enjoyable each game and to make new memories that we can tell our co-workers, friends and families about. The more word spreads, the more excitement will build over the Pirates and even more business for the team. Think about it, the choice is yours.
Zachary M. Weiss
And the rest of the Pittsburgh Pirates season ticket holder family
As I said in the last entry, this post will be the interview in its entirety. I put a lot of time and effort in to this and I would like to thank Zack Hample author of The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches, for taking nearly an hour of his time to answer my questions. The interview itself ended up being over 14 pages and almost 5,300 words, but here is the completed product:
1. You have written How To Snag Major League Baseballs and Watching Baseball Smarter, why a third book?
Zack Hample: “I just love to write first of all and I just love collecting baseballs. I love ballhawking, snagging, whatever you want to call it and although there’s some people out there who think that I’ve kind of already overdone it and sort of maxed it out, I still feel that there’s a lot more still to be said and it was even more than that even before I wrote this book. I had a vision for this book that was all about the baseball itself, and sort of an extension of my collection and my overall passion for this one particular hobby.”
2. How did the title ultimately come to be?
Zack Hample: “The title was actually suggested by my editor and some other people at Random House. It took a long time to pick the title, and it was getting to the point where they needed a title because long before a book actually hits the stores, there’s publicity and there’s memos and releases and the publisher sends out stuff to bookstores to try and get them to pre-order the book, and they’re trying to generate interest way ahead of time and you have to be able to call it something at that point. Months ago, it really came time to make a decision and we went through a lot of ideas, and I really like the title that they ended up choosing. I think that it is catchy and I think it’s a pretty good idea of what the book is about.”
3. We all know that a book takes research, how much research went into your book?
Hample: “A ton of research. I actually thought that this book, would be easier to write than Watching Baseball Smarter, and I’m such a big nerd with numbers and like to keep track of things. I actually keep track of all the hours that I spent writing, and Watching Baseball Smarter, took a total of about 1100 hours and I figured that this book would take less just because I knew there was going to be a lot of stuff on snagging baseballs which is pretty much all in my head and I figured I’d just be really passionate about the subject. My publisher actually told me that this book could be shorter. Watching Baseball Smarter, was 64,000 words, and they said for this one about the ball, aim for 50 to 70,000, so I thought great, if I can still get paid and write 50,000, then I guess that’s what I’ll aim for and that was my first thought, not like I was trying to sell anything short. Once I started getting into it, I just loved the material and kept finding so much of it that I really didn’t pay any attention to the word count and I ended up writing about 80,000 words and I needed to ask special permission to go over that limit. It took me a long time to write more words and it also took much longer than I expected because of all of the research that was involved. The bulk of my research came from the Hall of Fame. I was in touch with, Tim Wiles the Director of Research and he had a ton of information and he had several files on foul balls and the ball itself, actual Xeroxes of newspaper clippings dating back to the 1860’s and he told me that I was welcome to come up there and take a look at it for free. I guess otherwise I would have had to pay the admission to get into the museum that day, but that stuff is available to the public. That is way up-state in Cooperstown (New York) though, and I figured it would cost me a lot to get there, to rent a hotel and would have to stay a couple of nights am I just going to take all of my notes, in the span of two days? No I’m probably going to want to Xerox them anyway, so the other option was to pay $300 and have him Xerox everything and send it to me, so I chose that option. It wasn’t cheap. I also spent about a thousand dollars of my own money going to Costa Rica (a roundtrip flight, two nights in a hotel, etc..). I put a lot of money into this book which is how business works, you make an investment and you hope to end up with a great product in the end. The Hall of Fame sent me a phonebook sized stack of papers and I did nothing for a solid month, other then just comb through and read stuff and sort of methodically made my own index of what all of the different articles were about, categorized them and from there threw out a lot of stuff and highlighted a lot of stuff. That was a solid month of reading stuff and trying to figure out what to do with it. I felt like I was an English Major for a year and a half but other things involving research included visiting the Humidor where the Rockies store their baseballs. I knew that I was going to write about that in the book, and yes there were photos online and there were articles written, but like the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica, I could have written a chapter about it if I hadn’t been there, but I just knew that it would be a lot better if I could see it for myself. I also got to go and spend a day with the Phillies’ Equipment Manager and Citizens Bank Park on a day when the team was on the road. He took me into all of the secret areas of the stadium and showed me how he actually rubbed mud on baseballs that are used during games. So I went to certain places and gathered info along the way and even for the snagging baseballs section at the end of the book, I had already been to every Major League Stadium, but there were a few places that I hadn’t been to in about a decade and I knew that I wanted to write about those in the book. Again, I could have written stuff asking people about it, looking at photos and seeing charts of the stadium but I went to Atlanta for three games, I went to Cleveland for three games and I went on a few other trips just for the book. I kind of crammed those trips into last spring to beat one of the deadlines so I consider that research, and it was never ending really. So many interview requests and just a lot of online research, I sort of was poking around doing various searches and Google and just seeing what comes up and kind of following the leads and talking to people. That was a long answer, but that was because I did a lot of research. That’s why I took so long to write this book.”
4. What was your favorite part of the book to write?
Hample: “I am not even quite sure how to answer this, because just in sort of looking through the book, or telling people about it, it seemed that whatever chapter I’m talking about, is sort of like ‘Oh man I love this chapter, this is my favorite chapter!’ and then I start thinking about the one that came after it and it’s like, ‘No, that’s my favorite chapter!’ I really enjoyed a chapter called “Foul Balls in Pop Culture” and there’s kind of two things there and the main one was that I critiqued a lot of TV shows and movies that had scenes in them with foul balls. That was a lot of fun, to actually watch these things, sometimes in slow motion and sometimes twenty times to pick up on little details and sort of play the role of film critic briefly, I think that really turned out to be a fun section. The timeline, “The Evolution of the Ball” which is definitely the biggest single chapter in the book, is pretty intense. It was probably the toughest section to write because it was so long, but I learned the most probably from writing that. It’s not like I knew all of this stuff going into the book, I learned a ton along the way. The “How to Snag Major League Baseballs” portion of the book, that was great because I got to write it in the first person. I didn’t write about myself just to hear myself talk but I thought that it would actually kind of change the tone of the book and make it more personal and be able to tell some stories that could help people out. It was fun to kind of change gears a little bit and it almost resembled my blog at times, and I sort of felt more of a connection of the reader or who I imagine the reader to be. I guess the Rawlings chapter as well was just a thrill on a personal note. It was the last chapter that I wrote and my dad was really sick at the time, and he was diagnosed with cancer in June, and he ended up dying in September and his last few weeks alive, he and I worked on that chapter together (he is also a writer) and I did all of the work and writing, but I would write a sentence and then read it to him and he’d say ‘great’ or ‘no I don’t like that word, what else can you put in there?’ We combed through that whole chapter together and he was with me every step of the way and it was our last real great time spent together. My mom said that he didn’t really have energy to be awake a whole lot during the day but whenever I came over with my laptop, it just energized him and he was so happy to see me and to work with me, so when I see that chapter, there’s a lot of my dad in it.”
5. What do you want people to think of your book?
Hample: “In general, I really love it when I can share my passion with people and then other people share it back in return, so it’s sort of my way of saying to the world, ‘look how cool baseballs are’. This sort of explains why I am such a nutjob about it, and why I’m so into catching them. I want people who don’t even like baseball to enjoy this book, just because it sort of intellectualizes an object, and brings to life something that I think most people, wouldn’t think about.”
6. Who is the target audience for your book?
Hample: “I don’t think any diehard baseball fan would know half of the stuff in the first two parts of the book, probably not even 10 percent of the first two parts of the book. There’s some famous stories for sure, but I go into a lot of detail that I certainly never knew and I probably know as much about baseballs anyone going into this book. I certainly have baseball fans in mind just because I use baseball jargon and I just talk about certain things about the sport without stopping to give a ton of context, whereas in Watching Baseball Smarter, I did stop and took some time to explain things, because I was trying to introduce people to the sport they might not have known as much about it coming in, so certainly a more educated fan I guess for this book, but I don’t really think you have to know a whole lot about baseball. There’s certainly a few things you might not get if you don’t know about baseball, but there’s just so many fun stories that are great out of context that I think anyone can read. I think that maybe kids under 10 years old might have a tough time but I think this book will appeal to a wide-range of readers, I hope so anyway.”
7. What is your favorite picture in the book?
Hample: “Probably the Justin Bieber photo, no I’m just kidding. Well probably, the photos from the Rawlings factory, I guess, just because it’s a place that basically nobody gets to go to. I was fascinated with it long before I even dreamed of writing this book, I always wanted to go there. I was there on a family vacation in 2005, and I contacted Rawlings and tried to get them to let me in and of course they said no. I don’t know, it was such an elusive place and I have many more photos on my computer from the factory that did not make it into the book because there was limited space and all that, but I think just looking at those brings back some great memories. We all want behind the scenes access, we want special privileges, we want to see stuff other people don’t get to see, and so that’s what I think of when I see those photos and it’s pretty cool to be the one who gets to share that with other people.”
8. Why three sections, and why did you come up with the three sections that you came up with?
Hample: “It took a lot of planning and scheming and strategizing and the biggest challenge by far with this whole book, was simply figuring out how to organize all of the information. It just seemed logical, I mean it’s not like three is the magic number or anything like that, I mean I would have done five parts if there were five huge, different areas that needed to be talked about and at one point I just considered doing two parts. I knew it would be at least two, as I thought about doing a snagging part and then everything else, and there was even a time when I was considering four and I forget what the fourth one would have been but it really just worked out that way. The structure of the book kept evolving right up until the end.”
9. You tried to incorporate the good of baseball such as how crazy people were in the early 1900’s over baseballs and the bad such as death in baseball. Why do you think there is so much good and bad in baseball?
Hample: “I think that baseball is probably a reflection of life in general, I mean it’s not all bad and it’s not going to be all great. I think that’s sort of the nature of the world and there’s just a lot of money involved in baseball and a lot of ego so there’s a lot of drama in that sense. You are dealing with a very hard object of course, that can travel more than 120 miles per hour when it leaves the bat so from a physical standpoint, there’s certainly the chance that destructive things will happen. I just think that’s sort of how it goes, it is what it is, and that’s what makes it so entertaining too as something great might happen but something tragic may happen as well and you sort of live and die with it, sometimes literally.”
10. What inspired you to write down the complete history of the baseball (“The Evolution of the Ball”)?
Hample: “Just my own curiosity inspired it and I just felt like that was an essential part of it. It’s a book about the ball and in fact, when I tell people about the book, I tell them the title, and the first thing they ask is, ‘oh it’s like a history of the ball,” and it’s funny that that is the first thing they mention, and I have to say, ‘well yes, there’s a chapter about that but there’s so much more’. So I think without even really knowing much or thinking much about it, it’s sort of a logical obvious thing to write about and from a personal standpoint, I was fascinated myself in how it had changed and how it affected the sport along the way.”
11. You made a youtube video recently showing all that was inside the baseball. What inspires you to break down the baseball… literally and would you recommend it to others?
Hample: “That’s something that I had done on my own a couple of times over the years, just out of curiosity. I’m not really particularly handy or good at fixing things or you hear stories about kids who took their parents microwaves apart when they were seven and then learned how to put it together and now they’re an expert mechanic. It’s not anything like that with me, I was curious to see what was inside of it and as far as the Youtube video goes, as with the book itself, it’s just something I love so much that I want to share with a wider audience and it would be fun and interesting really for people to see it.”
12. Why did you decide to put all of the pictures in of the commemorative baseballs, and how many different types of commemoratives out there?
Hample: “I don’t know the exact number, and it is kind of hard to pin down, because there have been prototypes of balls that were never released to the public but there are a few collectors who have them. They weren’t ever used in games, so many are unsure if you count those. There sometimes is one logo which has three different versions and different background colors, so do you count that as three different ones or just one? It’s hard to pin down a number, but there are hundreds. I’m friends with someone who is a serious commemorative baseball collector, and he shared with me a master list at one point, and he was very helpful and it helped me come up with those 36 commemorative balls that you see in the book. The reason why I wanted to put those in there, quite simply, is who doesn’t love photos? My editor told me, that unfortunately we were not able to do color photos but she said you can have as many black and white photos as you want. Photos or any kind of visual really, bring stuff to life, and I just wanted to have a whole chunk of photos. When I pick up some random book in a store, I always flip through to see if there are pictures and I look at those and read the captions and I wanted that to be the case with this book, but not just have them clustered in one little area, but have them all throughout the book. I struggle with ADD, I haven’t officially been diagnosed, but I don’t want to read something that’s just hundreds of solid pages of text, I like it when it’s broken up a little bit with cool stuff to look at.”
13. Sticking to the same theme, what is your favorite commemorative baseball, either snagged or not snagged?
Hample: “I think the prettiest one is La Primera Serie from Monterrey, Mexico. The captions says that, ‘it is the first commemorative ball for actual regular season games that took place outside of the US or Canada’ and it’s too bad that there are not color photos in the book, because this particular ball is just gorgeous. The ball has alternating red and green stitches and the actual stamping from the ball is red, so it’s extremely festive. That’s a popular ball in general among collectors, and I think it is one of the coolest ones. I’m not sure about the rarity of the ball, there might have been a lot of them made and just sold as souvenirs, it’s only 15-years-old or so.”
14. Now on to something both you and I are rather familiar with- snagging. You wrote an entire book on this topic earlier, how is this section different from that book?
Hample: “The first thing I want to say about it is that I didn’t simply copy and paste my first book into the final third of this new one. I completely rewrote it. A lot of the chapter names are the same, I got that right when I was 19 and wrote the book the first time, but looking back at that first book now, I’m actually kind of embarrassed by it. I think the writing is terrible and I wasn’t nearly as knowledgeable about this stuff and it’s not really a good book. I mean you could say ‘yeah well it was good for a college kid’ or whatever, but it’s certainly not my best work. I think that I had only been to a dozen stadiums by the time I wrote that first one, and now I’ve been to 48, and I talk about many different stadiums, many different players and stories, I’ve learned much more about this since I wrote the first one. The writing is better; it’s more fun, it’s more personal, and I sort of go beyond myself and beyond just catching balls and bring in stories about the sport too and sort of actual historical things and things that were in the news connected to ballhawking. I think it’s a good enough section that people that don’t even want to catch baseballs would have fun reading it.”
15. If you could give a quick tip to those reading this interview that are interested in ballhawking that you do not normally give, what would it be and why?
Hample: “I have to say that every possible strategy that I’ve ever thought of is in the book, I did not withhold a single thing. The only thing that I understated in the book was when it came to sneaking past security and being sneaky. I didn’t want to go there, I don’t want to (tick) off anybody in Major League Baseball or get myself in serious trouble. It’s all there in the book, so I would just sort of reiterate the basic things, which are: show up early to batting practice, bring a glove, and invest a few bucks in buying some clothing of the visiting team as you’ll really get a lot of balls tossed at you. Those are just the basics, so just go out to a park sometime, and have a friend hit a few fungos and just practice catching fly balls, it can really be helpful, just learning how to judge a a ball. I don’t have an extra insider’s info, and part three of this book is so through that it may come back to haunt me. I’ve already lost out on a lot of baseballs because other people were there to catch them that got into it because of me, and they were using my own tricks against me. I’m willing to make that sacrifice and lose out on a few baseballs here and there just to be able to share this with a lot of people. There are many baseballs to be caught, and if my numbers are just slightly down at the end of the year, so be it, I’m sure there’s a lot of other people out there that will be happy to have caught those baseballs.”
16. For those interested in ballhawking but who have never tried, what is the top saying you use to get a player’s attention for a baseball?
Hample: “My voice. I mean that might sound obvious, but I think if you’ve never really tried or have never you gone early, you might not realize that it is perfectly acceptable to shout out at the players as loud as you possibly can as long as you do it politely and you don’t expect anything and you’re not demanding and you say please. Just don’t be shy, raise your voice and make yourself be heard.”
17. What is your favorite snag?
Hample: “I’m still going to go with the last home run ever at Shea Stadium (hit by a Met), just because it was incredibly crowded and it was a very historic game and I practically grew up in that stadium and I never caught a home run there in all the years that I’d been there, and then with just a few innings to go, I managed to do it, and to me that’s better then a Barry Bonds home run because Bonds is just one guy, and of course, there’s speculation that he may have done some dishonest things along the way. The Mets home run ball represents an entire organization, a city and a stadium so that one is going to be hard to beat, unless I catch somebody’s 500th home run or someone’s 3000th hit, maybe it will be a ground-rule double and bounce up to me.”
18. Why should people buy your book? What makes it different from other baseball books?
Hample: “Well, because it’s fun and interesting and because I think a lot of books out there focus on a particular player, they focus on a team, they’ll focus on a particular World Series, they’ll focus on some history and there will be a lot of trivia, but my book it, as far as I know, there has never been a book that just focused on an object before like this or to this extent in baseball. It’s a different kind of baseball book, it’s sort of like a look at the sport itself through the lens of the ball.”
19. Who is your favorite current baseball player?
Hample: “I’m going to have to go with Heath Bell. He’s been so incredibly nice to me and I already felt that he was my favorite two years ago before he was even a closer, and now look at him, he’s the man. He’s making all-star teams, he’s in the spotlight and he’s the man for the Padres so I think it’s got to be Heath Bell. I mean there are other guys I just love. I’ve always loved Jeter and Mariano. Mariano Rivera and Ichiro Suzuki- I love those two guys because they found their own unique way to succeed. I mean Mariano, just throws one speed and yet he just dominates and throws off Major League hitters, it’s unheard of, and Ichiro, he’s practically got his (butt) hanging out of the batter’s box and he’s running one way, his bat goes the other way and he weighs like 30 pounds with rocks in his pockets and he just should not be a professional athlete or baseball player, and it’s not just like he made it, I mean he dominates, so I sort of feel like he is an underdog even though he is still great, so I appreciate players like that.”
20. What team is the best bp team for you?
Hample: “The Marlins. The Marlins have always been really generous with tossing out baseballs into the crowd and it may be because I have a wonderful teal colored outfit, but for a number of years, they’ve just had a ton of righties and just guys that really crush the ball. I’ve always put up good numbers and had a lot of fun seeing the Marlins play.”
21. Since I will likely put this on my Pirates blog, what do you make of the Pirates?
Hample: “In general, I actually don’t keep up with off-season news, just because baseball completely takes over my life during the warmer months, that I actually like to take the winter months and get as far away from it as possible, so I don’t really know that much about what’s been happening in the Major Leagues in general since the end of the World Series and then you sort of go a step further back and talk about the Pirates, I couldn’t tell you a single move they made. For all I know, Albert Pujols may have signed with them but… wait, is Clint Hurdle going to be managing them? (Upon finding out that Garrett Atkins will join them) I think he has proven that he can hit a mile above sea level. I don’t expect good things from the Pirates, this season, just judging on past performance. I mean I would love for the Pirates to win the division, I would love it, again, I love the underdog and Pittsburgh is such a wonderful baseball city that just goes back to generations and I would love to see that franchise resurrect itself, but I don’t see it just turning around that quickly, but no one thought the Padres were going to do anything last year, I mean everybody thought that they were going to suck, and they did end up missing the playoffs, but they surprised a lot of people.
22. What do you make of PNC Park from a ballhawking perspective?
Hample: “My best advice on how to handle right field at PNC Park is not to go there or hang out behind the bleachers before the stadium opens. I know I put PNC Park in my top 10, but it sort of barely squeaked in there. It is not a great batting practice park, but it’s really good during games. If I were just according to BP, I probably would have put Citizens Bank Park in there. I have become more home run conscious. There’s sort of that flat standing room area between the bleachers and that low second deck that helps a lot.”
23. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Hample: “Ballhawking as a cultural phenomenon gets a lot of bad press and there’s a lot of negativity associated with it. People have this perception that ballhawks knock over little kids and steal baseballs from them, just because I catch one ball means that someone else is deprived of it, but that’s really not how it works, and it’s something that kids of all ages just enjoy. I try to give back I’m raising money for a charity and I give a lot of baseballs to kids and I see other ballhawks doing the same thing. When my first book came out, I was sort of all about keeping every single ball and I even wrote a list of excuses not give people on why not to give them a baseball and I am pretty embarrassed by that now. My attitude has changed, and ballhawking has received a lot of press in the last few years and I think it’s going to get a lot more in the coming seasons when A-Rod starts taking aim at Bonds’ career record and Pujols as well. Everyone is going to be hearing about ballhawks, and ballhawk related things. I think that the less people know about this, the more negative things they will tend to assume but I think for people who aren’t familiar with this, give it a chance, read the book, read some blogs of ballhawks, go on mygameballs.com, read some of the columns and read your (Zac’s) blog. It is a really fun, positive hobby and like anything, there are some negative things that do arise, but it’s just pretty cool, and I just want more people to know about it and give it a fair shake.”
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.
Rarely do I ever attend Sunday games, because it is just too hot and there are kids everywhere, meaning people like me have little to no chance of getting anything. It also doesn’t help that there rarely is BP on Sunday games.
However, I went to this game because I was getting complimentary tickets as well as a little special something after the game.
I was expecting to be stuck up in the 300 sections, but I ended up sitting in section 124, right by the umpire exit but a level up, so I was happy.
When I got to my seat, I noticed a Pirate signing and was excited to find out that it was Ross Ohlendorf. I immediately dropped my bag, and went down to get him to sign. It was a long crowded wait, but eventually Ohlendorf (pictured below) signed my scorecard and I went back to my seat happy.
Not much else occured for me in this game although I got conversations with Herbie Andrade and Denny Bautista (pictured below) about baseball.
I did not really go for baseballs that day, although I was more in the talking mood talking to a worker about working at the ballpark. He gave me inside information about the park that many don’t know.
Soon enough, the game was over and I prepared for my special moment. I made the call and then a few minutes later I was face to face with PA announcer Tim DeBacco (pictured below). This was my chance to meet the man behind the infamous voice.
Before I continue, I am sure many of you are asking me how I got into contact with Tim. I can tell you that I sent him an email explaning who I was and how I enjoyed and appreciated his work. I then asked if there was any chance I could meet him. He responded by offering tickets on a mutually agreed upon date which ended up being this game. We (my dad and I), were also to get a tour of the sound studio as well as talk about my journalism endeavors.
Tim took us up, and it was really nice, as he had nothing but good things to say and continued to encourage me to continue down the right path. He also gave me a ton of 2009 media guides he no longer needed including ones from the Cardinals, Phillies and the Mets. I was really excited, and I took a lot away from the discussions Tim and I had. After a few pictures, we all left the ballpark and parted ways.
Two days later, I was back at the ballpark to see the Cubs face the Buccos. It was a rare school night game, but we were a couple of rows from the field, and it was Arnold Palmer night at the ballpark. I added this entry to this blog because it is a really short one.
I was looking forward to meeting Palmer and getting a signature, but the Pirates put Palmer in the Lexus Club making it impossible to get to him.
So not only was that a disappointment, but I didn’t get a ball or signature at the game because of the Palmer ceremony and a need to leave the game early. It also didn’t help that the Cubs had a seven run, eight hit first inning before getting an out. So overall, a bad game all around.