May 2010

Pirates vs Braves 5/22/10 PNC Park

 This game was an absolutely frustrating one. I went to this game with my best friend Colston, and we got pretty close to the front of the line.

 I called the Pirates and they said that BP would still be on but in line I noticed that that wasn’t the case. I went in and checked in with season tickets and entered the bleachers.

 Things were looking good early as despite no BP Kenshin Kawakami was warming up in the bullpen. With my red Under Armour on, it looked as if I would get on the board early. However, Erik came up and although I knew how to ask for the ball in Japanese, Erik ended up with the ball. However I had to act fast, and sure enough I ran over to the left field bleachers right by the bullpen and asked Bullpen Coach Eddie Perez for a ball.

 Perez then said that he had no baseball, but asked if I wanted the rosin bag, knowing that he was joking around, I played along and said sure. Perez then threw the bag halfway up and the dirt spread. We both laughed, and then he reached into the bag for ball number 1. After this, Erik, Colston and I went upstairs and tried to get more baseballs.

 With no one throwing, I decided to go for autographs and started out with an autograph from Cristhian Martinez.

 While waiting for them to throw, Jesse Chavez and Billy Wagner came out and started to sign. I made sure to thank Chavez and when Wagner signed I told him that if this was his final season than congratulations on a great career. Later on, I got a picture with Wagner, and this was the result.

 

  

 

  I was unable to get any of the warmup balls from the Braves and my next attempt at an autograph was all for not as Tommy Hanson ignored all of us.

 He threw a baseball with coach Alan Butts and Peter Moylan threw around with Eric O’Flaherty and then it started to rain and again I came up empty handed.

 I then went into the Hall of Fame Club and soon after back into my seat.

 Then came the long rain delay. This was a very good thing as Erik and Jim were nowhere to be seen and Nick was in Cleveland.

 When the game resumed, I had a clear advantage with trying to get an Andrew McCutchen toss up. Unfortunately I think he recognized me.

 Nate McLouth also tossed up baseballs but never threw it into my section.

 The bullpen was also crowded and we left around 11 and despite my clear advantage ended up with only one ball and three signatures. What a disappointment. I am unsure of when my next game is, but it is not until next month.

 

 

Pirates vs Brewers 5/20/10 PNC Park

 I went to this game with my friends Nick and Ryan. I got off to a slow start as public transportation screwed me. The bus took forever and thus I missed nearly all of the season ticket batting practice.

 When I did arrive, the Pirates had just finished BP and Charlie Morton and Ross Ohlendorf sined for somebody and left. Herbie Andrade was hitting pop ups to DJ Carrasco and when finished, popped the ball up to us. The ball landed and stayed on the warning track and because I had no glove trick gave up on the ball. At this point I was pissed as I probably could have snagged a couple of baseballs.

 The Brewers started throwing along the first base side and I tried to sneak over but there were people guarding the entries. I took off my Pirates BP jersey in favor of my white Under Armour shirt. I said my hellos to Nick, Erik and Jim of BHL/PNC Park fame before getting set.

 The Brewers then came over and they were hitting balls into the bleachers. Mitch Stetter was snagging in left field and threw a ball up to a Brewers fan. A ball soon came and bounced up off of the warning track. Jim missed it and I missed the return but the short run worked out in my favor for ball number 1 on the day. The Brewers put writings on some of the baseballs, and this one said “Wolfman”.

  I then left my friends to go out to centerfield. After a few minutes, I saw some foul balls, and thus went over to the first base side.

 I came down too late for one ball, and Trevor Hoffman threw one to a kid despite my manners. I eventually got Todd Coffey to throw me ball number 2. I then went over to the dugout to try and snag a baseball and came up empty handed.

 However, Ryan Braun came over to sign and although he would not sign on the “sweet spot” on any baseballs he signed mine.

 Soon after, Casey McGehee was on the first base side and I ran after him and failed. He then came into the dugout and pointed to you when he felt that it was your turn. He kept passing me up but eventually, he did sign for me.

 I then saw Hoffman signing and just missed him and despite asking nicely (again) did not get a baseball from him. Jeff Suppan then got a message that his church sister was there and he quickly talked to her. When he finished, he signed my baseball.

 After realizing that I missed both Coffey and potentially Prince Fielder, I went back to the dugout and got Manager Ken Macha to sign my baseball.

 That was all the action that I had before gametime.

 In the third inning, I went from my section 141 over to section 140 hoping to snag an Andrew McCutchen warmup ball. His throw was a little low but it was between Jim and I and I made a nifty catch for ball number 3 (and protected a few kids along the way). It was clear that Jim was having a rough day (don’t feel too bad for him; he snagged at least one ball).

 I then marched to the bullpen to snag another baseball and sure enough, lady luck was on my side as Herbie came out of the bullpen. After saying hi to him, I reminded him about the promise he made to me at Bowling With the Bucs and he quickly nodded and remembered. A few seconds later ball number 4 was in my glove. This ball broke my previous snagging high.

 My snagging totals took a little bit of a hit when Bowling With the Bucs friend Jack Taschner was officially placed on the 15 day DL. This could cost me some snags later on in the season.

 I did try to sneak into left field but Joel Hanrahan threw the ball elsewhere ending my day with four baseballs and four signatures.

 I decided to leave early as I was exhausted, and did so. My next game would be on Saturday against the Braves. I am hoping that Jason Heyward will add to my collection

Bowling With the Bucs 2010

To cap off the weekend, I paid the money to Pirates Charities to bowl with the Pirates. The event took place in Crafton, PA at Noblestown Lanes.

 I arrived just when people were coming in, and upon entering the lanes, I went straight for the food which was donated by various food places. I grabbed a slice of pizza and a couple of Smiley Cookies. The lone complaint was that no drinks were out and you had to order them meaning that you either had to pay extra or wait for the drinks to come out.

 This was my second year doing Bowling With the Bucs as I did the event last year and was paired up with Tyler Yates,

 When I registered with Pirates Charities, I got a Zach Duke bag (the bag they gave away earlier in the day) and in it were various goodies. I received an Earth Day Pirates cap, a water bottle, one of the t-shirts from “T-Shirt Thursdays” and a couple of papers involving the lanes and another Pirates Charities event.

 I found out that I would bowl on lane 8 and then talked with Rob, one of my Facebook friends who had said that he would come to the event as a spectator. I then got my shoes and the bowling ball I would roll with. With that, I went by the door for the Pirates players, coaches, broadcasters and front office who would come out one by one.

 While some kids got a head start on the autographs I got some handshakes from Ryan Church, John Russell, Evan Meek and Andrew McCutchen just to name a few.

 After Frank Coonelly wished all of the moms a happy Mother’s Day, Zach Duke rolled the first ball of the night, knocking down nine pins.

 After that, the players went into their lanes. In the lane to my left, Paul Maholm was the Pirates celebrity. Maholm had been knocked around fairly good earlier in the day and had a beer in hand looking to forget the early part of his day (and he managed to roll a gutterball in his lane; a lane with bumpers). To my right was bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade. Herbie’s always been a cool guy and he has promised me a ball the next time I come to a game (which will be Thursday). Herbie did scare me a little bit when he decided to dance (while bowling) to a Lady Gaga song that had come on in the alley.

 As for my “celebrity”, I ended up with Jack Taschner. Taschner, like me, is left-handed although because he had pitched in the last three games before the event, he bowled right handed.

            I had a great start to the first game as I converted a split in the first frame and rolled a strike in the second frame. Taschner immediately pressured me telling Herbie that we would have a 240 and sure enough I buckled to the pressure as my form became terrible. I ended up with a 114 in the first game, which was enough to win the first game.

            During the first game, I went around for various autographs and among others got Cutch to sign my t-shirt jersey and Church to sign my scorecards.

            Taschner was much more social than Yates was last year, and our personalities meshed really well.

            There were two parts of the event that I liked the most. The first was the media coverage. KDKA and WPXI had people there this year (and I got to talk to both reporters) but even better was the fact that FSN was there as well.

            I talked to the producer for FSN and when I told him about myself and my interest in journalism (for a career), he gave me his card and offered me an exclusive opportunity over the summer. I was very excited about the opportunity and hope to capitalize on it.

            After I talked with him, he was getting ready to interview Taschner. I think he based this on Taschner’s playful exchange with me when he was giving me tips and was unable to back them up with his game. When he asked Taschner for an interview, he (Taschner) asked whether or not to use just him or include me and the producer chose to include me. He asked us both questions and Taschner would answer and then I would answer. The experience was interesting as I was able to easily answer the questions despite not having anything going on in my head. Part of the interview and the exchange between Taschner and I made Inside Pirates Baseball that Saturday.

            My second favorite part was the bowling itself. The bowling was fun, and thus Taschner decided to raise the stakes. With many of our second shots, he placed a $20 bill on the table for whomever could make the spare. After failing twice, I finally did convert a spare. However, he had not put down the $20. When I came up again, I told him to put up the $20 and I knocked down 9 pins, and then picked up the spare. The $20 was mine!

            In the second game, I rolled a ninth in the tenth frame and converted the easy spare. I needed a strike to tie and I lost my grip on the ball and lost with a 104.

            During and after the game I got my bowling jersey signed. Among the signatures were Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche, Brian Burres, John Russell, Taschner, Brian Bass, Church and Delwyn Young. It was cool interacting with a lot of the guys and despite the $25 increase to $150 to bowl it was well worth it.

            Evan Meek who was drunk last year during this event continued his drinking this year while Taschner drank Diet Pepsi. Taschner introduced me to Meek and upon shaking his hand the flashback of last year came (Meek did acknowledge me by name)

            I will make sure that I do this event next year. I highly recommend it and it is a must for any Pirates fan!

 

Pirates vs. Cardinals 5/9/10 PNC Park

 I went to this game with my father largely because this was the day where first-time season ticket holders like myself were invited to the Pirates Deck for food, fun and season ticket benefit info.

 At the event, Ross Ohlendorf joined us signing something. I was surprised to see Ohlendorf there, as he was pitching the next night, but it was a nice touch since he was still technically on the disabled list. We had a nice brief discussion during which he signed the Pirates program I had received at the gates. I then went on to enjoy the best ballpark hamburger I have ever had and the snickerdoodle cookie was heavenly. After a discussion with Frank Coonelly, I was off to my seats.

 I left the deck and headed towards the bullpen where I ran into Nick. Nick and I talked and after the Cardinals didn’t toss either of us a ball, we parted ways.

 I also went over to section 141, my season ticket holder section, and said hi to Jim. I also talked to the usher as he told me that he would let me into his section later.

 My tickets were in section 127, and although closer to the action than section 141, I was in the middle of scenic nowhere. I had no shot at a third out toss up or an umpire ball and I quickly got a headache and this one teenager would not shut up. It looked like I was going to get shutout.

 With the shutout being a near formality, I decided that it would be a great time to leave my seat. It was the fourth inning and I figured I could make it to the Riverwalk in time for the Pirates Quiz. The quiz would provide a great distraction and allow me to set up shop in section 141 for a Cutch toss up.

 I made the Riverwalk in record time and the quiz would not begin for another two outs. I then got the usher’s attention and he told me to wait a minute. He then let me into the section placing me next to Jim. Jim and I soon talked and he told me that Cutch knows his face and thus would move to a different section so that I would have a chance at the ball.

 I would have some stiff competition, because at that point Nick joined us. Also as mentioned on Nick’s blog, I wasn’t helped by the fact that seven kids were in the section as well.

 Sure enough the quiz and the kids worked in my favor. Cutch saw myself and the kids and threw it in our section. It would be a jump ball and honestly, it did not look good for me. I paid very close attention to the ball and then waited until I felt it was time to leap. The ball landed square in the top of my glove and then I came down with it. It was my first and only ball of the day. I immediately thanked Jim and the usher telling them when I would next see them and left.

 It was especially great to make the snag, as neither Jim nor Nick had ever seen me snag a ball before so it was great for me to prove to them that I was for real.

 The game was a blowout with the Pirates losing so my dad and I left in the sixth inning.

 Later on that night was Bowling With the Bucs, a charity bowling event chaired by Zach Duke and that will be the focus of my next post. Who will I be paired up with and what fun will occur? You will have to read my next post to find out.

 

Pirates vs. Cardinals 5/8/10 PNC Park

 

            Today was going to be a historic day, and I could feel and sense it. I went with my friend Colston, and I decided that I had to show up on time to take in the full portion of season ticket holder batting practice.

            When I arrived, I saw a few people ahead of me and also saw Erik, Jim and Nick. It was Nick who broke me the bad news that there would be no batting cages set up. Nick then told me he wasn’t going to stay, and I never saw him all night. The weather was absolutely atrocious and naturally I had to come up with a plan B for making that historic snag.

            Once inside the park, I began to strategize. I did briefly talk to Jim and noticed that Erik was not with him. I saw him on the third base side and was surprised to see him there as no one is ever allowed there, however I didn’t care and thus prepared to go over there.

            I did sneak over there and getting into the section wasn’t difficult. Erik left when I came which meant that he had another snag under his belt. I decided to stay over there and was naturally rewarded when Ross Ohlendorf came by. There were a good 6 people with me and Ohlendorf signed for all of them. I realized that I had a pen, but nothing to sign so I managed to wish him well for his start which was to be on Monday.

However, the light bulb finally came on in my head and I asked Ross for a ball. Ross kindly obliged and tossed me the ball. Of course, once he tossed it the wind picked up and I reached over to make a tough catch my first snag of the day. I made sure to thank Ross, and I was especially grateful when someone else asked him for the other ball and Ross told him no because he probably wasn’t supposed to give them away. It then hit me that this ball was the ball that allowed me to break my record from last year. I was glad to get the snag out of my way and move on with my life.

            I went back to Colston as well as Jim and the guys for a little while until I noticed some St. Louis Cardinals pitchers throwing along the first base side. I again managed to sneak off and go towards the first baseline.

            As I was running there, a Cardinal was signing autographs and of course I just missed him. Apparently the Cardinal was Blake Hawksworth but with my main objective getting baseballs, my priorities slightly changed.

            When I went over I noticed the two Cardinals were Jason Motte and Ryan Franklin. I tried to be extremely cautious as the Cardinals always are stingy during batting practice and never throw the ball to fans at PNC Park. When Motte and Franklin threw the ball, relievers Dennys Reyes and Trevor Miller joined in a separate session. It was at this point when Erik sporting a Troy Glaus jersey came down and watched the Reyes and Miller session. Erik eventually snagged a ball asked Reyes for it in Spanish.

            Motte and Franklin each had a ball and I thought I had a great chance at a ball until they tried to throw it across the tarp to see who could throw it farther.

            Reyes began a small autograph session and I quickly got him to sign my baseball.

            Franklin then talked with somebody and unlike last year when he ignored me, he asked me if he could sign my ball and I happily let him.

            It was at this point when I was ready to head back to Colston, when I saw Motte in the dugout. He had a couple of balls and I asked him for one and he quickly threw me ball number 2.

            I then headed back to Colston and after a while, noticed more Cardinals pitching. I had guessed from afar that it was Adam Wainwright and I saw Erik over there as the only one to get the ball from him. I tried to sneak away but they finally had a guard blocking the escalators and stairs meaning I was stuck in left field and Erik was going to get another ball.

            I patiently waited until the gates opened, and there was a big line waiting. Naturally, I wanted to get over to Wainwright and it looked like I would, but of course everybody took their grand old time up the steps meaning Erik got the ball.

            Wainwright was then interviewed by some St. Louis press as he was the starter for the next day’s game. I joined the masses along the first base line positioning myself behind a kid, thus increasing my chances of getting his signature.

            After shaking hands with the press, Wainwright passed through the first baseline not signing one autograph. While everyone else groaned, I saw this as an opportunity to sneak away towards the dugout and get his attention.

            I raced towards the dugout and just beat him. I got his attention, and he asked for the ball and sure enough signed it. I was ecstatic and became elated when the slow crowd at first base finally had come over only to see Wainwright leave, meaning I had the only Wainwright autograph. I felt great.

            By the way, there still was a game that was going on, and I was excited to see it. The game itself was very cold, and by the sixth inning I was officially freezing.

            Still, the show must go on, and I tried for additional baseballs. After adding an autograph from Manny Sanguillen on my game program I marched towards the bullpen only to be turned down once again by Herbie Andrade.

            Andrew McCutchen played the entire game in center field and his warm-up balls were disappointments as nothing came my way, while Erik made another snag.

            The Pirates won the game and I had come away with a nice haul of 2 balls and 4 autographs. Most importantly, I ensured a higher snagging total than last year’s campaign when I caught the throw from Ross Ohlendorf. I did go to the Sunday game against St. Louis. How did I do? You’ll have to read my next post to find out.

Pirates vs Cubs PNC Park 5/6/10

 

            I unexpectedly made this weekday game and it was a very rare game as I almost never attend the ballpark on a school night. My AP Government teacher had 7 tickets and gave me them. I made sure to get her a t-shirt because of her troubles.

The tickets were in section 325 and that had to change if I was to realistically snag anything. I solved this problem by doing what I did 2 years ago and went to the advanced ticket sales office inside the ballpark. Because my friend Nick (not the BHL Nick but a different one) and a friend of his went we were able to get section 140 row B which was great because I had a decent chance to snag an Andrew McCutchen toss up especially with 11,085 fans in attendance.

It hurt me that we were late (as in we showed up at 6:30) and that the ticket transaction took 10 minutes, and I literally had just made the bullpen in time for warm-ups. It was there when I ran into Erik Jabs and Nick Pelescak of the BHL. It was great to see them, and they seemed shocked to see me. I could tell that I was well behind them, and I wanted to get the day started out right, however I was unable to snag a bullpen ball as the seemingly reliable Herbie Andrade turned me down.

I then went back in my seats and watched as Cutch kept not throwing me the ball. In fact he threw one right in my general direction. It was a bit high so I jumped and just missed it as the ball went straight into Erik’s waiting glove. The fact that I was about to get shut out was honestly killing me especially since Cutch got to toss all of the warm up balls as Ryan Church was in right field. If anyone knows anything about Ryan Church, it’s that he never throws the warm up ball.

With the Pirates having their way against the Chicago Cubs, Cutch was taken out of the game and Church moved to center. For me, this was absolute worst case scenario as I could pretty much kiss any chances of me getting a ball good bye. This allowed me to introduce myself to Jim who is the king of the home run ball at PNC Park.

            In the first half inning that Church manned center field, he didn’t even throw Garrett Jones the ball to toss up, but instead threw it towards the bullpen.

            In the second half inning, I had made a decision. My decision was to put my glove away if Church did not toss up this ball. Considering Church never throws the ball up, I was getting ready to say goodbye to my glove. However, something felt very different.

The warm-ups were over and Church had the ball on his side, debating whether or not to throw it up. No one was aware of this, so I stuck my glove up to give him a target. He then decided to throw me the ball, but his aim was terrible. This was my first ever time where I really felt like I had a true chance of catching a warm-up ball. However, the combination of me losing the ball in the stadium light and his aim put me behind. The throw had drifted well to my right. Luckily for me, the guy was not wearing a glove and missed it. The ball then took a big bounce and, I made a long run and caught the ball square in my glove for ball number 1.

Naturally I was very excited as I had defied all odds and avoided the shut out the hard way, by convincing the Ebenezer Scrooge of throwing up warm-up balls to do just that. The ball also had a lot of significance as it was my fifth snag of the season tying my snagging total from last season in only three games. I was unable to get any other baseballs, so the potential record-breaking performance would have to wait for Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals who are known for being stingy during batting practice. Will I pull through? You’ll have to read the next entry to find out.

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