April 2011

Ballhawking thru two homestands

 Due to the rain, there were not nearly as many opportunities to snag baseballs. There was no batting practice every single game I went besides Saturday. I am not counting Wednesday towards my ballhawking stats as I was a media member and covering both dugouts (and there was rain galore again) I had no opportunites to snag a thing.

 Games: 6

 Balls snagged: 25

 Career Balls Snagged: 94

 Top Catches of the homestand:

 1. Saturday April 23 Pirates vs Nationals: Matt Diaz hit a ball that initially looked as though it was going to fall short of where I had set up shop, but it sailed longer. I was prepared to play it off of a bounce, and it did bounce, right off of my leg. I had no time to lick my wound and I dove on the concrete on top of the ball making the snag. It also was ball number 22 of the season.. BHL founder Erik Jabs said that I needed to snag 21 this month to keep pace, and it allowed me to pass this benchmark. Also it took me until July 20, 2010 last season to get to this point, so I am well ahead of my pace.

 2. Tuesday April 26 Pirates vs Giants: I had just missed an Andrew McCutchen toss up in the third as he under threw me. My back had been out and my leg still banged up from the Diaz hit and other injuries. I also had slightly tweaked my ankle. In the fifth inning, Cutch tossed up the ball and I knew this likely was my last chance. Ian Weir had snagged the third inning ball after my misplay, and if I missed it, he was likely to get it. Right behind me was a supervisor so I had to defend him as well. It was the exact same catch as the one on April 14 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

 Autographs:

1. Tim Lincecum- I don’t really chase autographs anymore, but with no BP on the field and nothing going on, I tried to get Giants ace Tim Lincecum. It was hard because he started in the middle of the autograph seekers and I was closer to the end of the line trying to gauge where he was. He then was skipping every two or three people, so I went where I thought he would sign, and I ended up correct. He signed the baseball thrown to me by Madison Bumgarner only minutes before. It was a great moment and a great add to a collection which includes Adam Wainwright, Billy Wagner, Ubaldo Jimenez, Andrew McCutchen and more which I cannot think of right now. Lincecum has a scribbly autograph much like Jimenez, so you really can’t tell that it was him who signed it.

Upcoming Dates:

 I plan on being an active member of this homestand. Being at 94 snags, I more than expect to surpass the 100 career snags on this homestand, which has visits from the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros are not great when it comes to BP or toss ups, but you never know. The Dodgers have a new manager but with Matt Kemp, Andre Eihier and others it should be a fun BP. Here are the games I plan on going to at this moment:

 1. Saturday May 7 vs Astros

 2. Tuesday May 10 vs Dodgers

 3. Wednesday May 11 vs Dodgers

 4. Thursday May 12 vs Dodgers

 PLEASE HOLD UP WEATHER!!! WE HAVE ALREADY HAD ENOUGH RAIN!!

 Lastly fellow Pittsburgh ballhawk and BHL member Nick Pelescak asked me if I wanted to go to Washington to see the Nationals play the Giants, but I decided against it as I have finals this week. It actually didn’t seem that expensive to go so very well may take a road trip this year. He also offered to take me to Texas this summer, but with a summer job and limits I declined that invite. Perhaps Washington and Cleveland are possibilities this season.

Media Day #2 4/27/11 Impressions

 I have been told not to post the transcripts of the interviews I had onto my blog, and thus you will not be seeing those on here. I would like to be asked back this season, and this could go a big way to helping me. I likely will not be a media member again until September as school is practically over and does not begin until the end of August or early September. Because this coming week is finals week, I have not even had time to transcribe the chats.

 Before I move into this entry, here is one final picture from the night before. It was too cute not to put in an entry:

 Anyways, one last bit of news to pass along. My radio show A to Z Sports wrapped up this week, and I received an award from the radio station. I was named “Most Underrated DJ”. I came very far this year and planning/creating the show each week, lining up guests, coming up with questions for them, making a Facebook and Twitter page, writing sports updates and appearing on another show twice a week were some of the many commitments I made to the station. Not bad for a freshman in college.

 But back to the entry. I arrived at PNC Park a little before 2:40 but had to pay for a couple more tickets and was talking to my Season Ticket representative and a security guard and thus at 3:15 was in the press box entrance.

 I was the first one to report to the Pirates clubhouse where I checked in and waited. When Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Jen Langosch of MLB.com showed up along with my friend Kristy Robinson (who god bless her picked up a full season credential) we all entered the clubhouse. Manager Clint Hurdle would not have his press conference until 4, and no one was really in the clubhouse as the team actually was taking batting practice. With nothing going on, I decided to set off for the San Francisco Giants clubhouse.

 With me went John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus and together we had a conversation off record with Ryan Vogelsong who would be starting the next day’s game. It was great speaking with him, and he remembered all of the old Pirates reporters. At that point Freddy Sanchez walked over and said a quick hello to both of us before darting off. John and I were both waiting for Pablo Sandoval to come back for an interview. Sandoval lost a lot of weight and was running and defending better this season and I really wanted to talk to him. Unfortunately, I was playing two clubhouses at once, and it was just about four so I had to jet back to the Pirates clubhouse to speak to Manager Hurdle.

 I made it with a couple minutes to spare, and saw Colin speaking with Tim Neverett and Greg Brown was there as well. Root Sports was also well represented as Rob King was there in a red Root Sports shirt. We then were called in to speak with Manager Hurdle. I was the first one in, and thus I received a special hello greeting before taking a seat.

 I learned from my mistake from earlier in the month, and I did research and was prepared to talk to Manager Hurdle as I had compiled a set list of questions and talking points just for him, as everything else would be ad-libbed. I also was not shy to ask him a question, and I dove right in asking him the second question. My question was on Giants starter Madison Bumgarner and after I was asked to clarify what I wanted to know from Manager Hurdle, I quickly did and I got a great answer. It led into a question from Colin and a great conversation.

 Things did get a bit testy as David Todd who replaced Rocco DeMaro on Extra Innings, asked Manager Hurdle about the previous night’s bunt play by Pedro Alvarez. Todd seemed to push the boundary and luckily the two were separated by a desk because the tone of voice quickly escalated. Colin and I later talked about it, and it was not pretty. Although it did end after a little back and forth. I have never witnessed anything that seemed that unprofessional in my young career.

 Speaking of unprofessional it is time for a little rant. Among the regular media, only Kristy and myself were the only two to dress professionally. Yes, it was hot and with the rain it also became humid, however wearing jeans, shorts or slacks is just unacceptable. I am aware that some of the regulars have been at this for a while, but you are doing a job. This is not Spring Training in Bradenton, Florida. This is doing a job for your newspaper, website, etc.. so act like it. Sorry, I had to get that off of my chest. For what it’s worth, I took a while to change because I wanted to pick an unbiased color. I wanted to wear an orange shirt, but the Giants were in town so I didn’t.

 I then went back into the Pirates clubhouse and didn’t see much, so I went back to the Giants clubhouse to take a gander at what the World Champs were doing. John had his interview with Sandoval and it ended up that we were pretty much going to ask the same types of things. Freddy Sanchez kept popping in and out. At this point outdoor BP was cancelled because of the rain and tarp that was on the field.

 I then took a look in Brian Wilson’s direction. He was with Tim Lincecum and they along with another Giant were playing some kind of card game or dice game. From the outset it looked boring, but Wilson looked content and not bored, so I guess something about it was fun.

 I was looking to interview a player and nothing was going as planned, and my back which was killing the night before was coming back. I eventually settled on Cody Ross, and I approached him. I waited my turn, but apparently the guy before me got him angry and he swore and I decided that it wasn’t a good idea. I then just stood an observed a boring clubhouse. Nothing good was happening.

 Then my favorite part of the night came. A Giants TV guy came in and was making small talk with the rest of the media. I overheard him say that he had his World Series ring with him and that it was heavy. He then held it up, and I decided to give myself a thrill. I asked him if I could try it on, and I put it on and it was such a great feeling. I can only imagine how the Giants felt. After a very short while, I gave the ring back, said it was awesome and thanked him.

 I then saw that some of the Giants were going out to throw and with nothing going on in the Giants clubhouse, I was waiting for Manager Bruce Bochy to have his pre-game conference and thus I gave John my number and went out to watch Jonathan Sanchez throw in the bullpen and watch Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo throw.

 As they were throwing I took it all-in. This was my last time on the field likely until September, so I might as well soak it in. So I walked over past the Giants dugout and walked close to where the players were throwing and starting clicking the camera.

 

It was such a surreal moment living my dream and also living every fan’s dream of being on the field this close to the players, and then I saw John in the dugout I headed over to get ready for the Manager Bochy presser.

 Manager Bochy’s pre-game was much more different than Hurdle. The questions were a little broader and more creative and Manager Bochy just kept pausing in the middle of his answers. He was never short of a story and even told us reporters calmly that the team has not gotten off to the start that he had hoped. I asked Manager Bochy about his thoughts on James McDonald the Pirates starter and Manager Bochy seemed oblivious to McDonald’s early season struggles, as he replied as if McDonald was an ace and was on the top of his game. He also complimented the Pirates. If only his team listened to him, as they looked uninspired in a loss.

 Manager Bochy came off as knowledgable and believable and he was also watching his pitchers throw, so he was making small talk with us as well, using the opportunity to tell more stories. All in all, Bochy stayed for a good while.

 When he left, I took another picture:

  As I said before, McDonald pitched with a purpose for the first time all season. It was a great effort and his start had a great beginning, middle and end although the walk total was a bit high.

 Joel Hanrahan recorded his first home save of the season, and the bullpen pitched well. After the game, new Pirate Xavier Paul was spotted in the clubhouse and all signs pointed to John Bowker getting released. This was confirmed the next day, when Manager Hurdle said that Bowker was third everywhere on the depth chart that he could play.

 I attended Manager Hurdle’s post-game presser in his office, which still was neat but had a few more books and behind him a couple of the season’s promotions. I am guessing that they are for his children. 

 After the presser was over, I was the only one left in the room. I quickly asked him one question about the defensive play Pedro Alvarez made that night, going into foul territory and into the first couple rows of seats and over the big Root Sports hurdle to make a circus catch. After his response, I thanked him and left. This made me the first to enter before the game, and the last to leave after the game.

 I then went into the clubhouse with the rest of the media and we all talked to McDonald, Chris Snyder who had a key RBI and Bowker. Then I waited for my ride as others filed their stories. I studied for an exam I had the next day. It wasn’t until after midnight that I left, so after studying, I took a couple of final pics.

 

Overall, it was a great time and it is a shame that I cannot do this until September but I learned so much, and I thank everybody that was involved in allowing me to come down to do this not once but twice. 

Pirates vs San Francisco Giants 4/26 PNC Park

 Before I begin, let me explain. This entry is written in a Times New Roman font, and that is because I typed it on my computer before I placed it on here. I had a tight timeline when I first typed this and I figured this would work just as well.

This day started with a lot of promise. I had read a post from Twitter from @BucsInsider and saw that the first 15 people to meet at the Pirates Clubhouse Store would get a pair of tickets to the Pittsburgh Baseball Club for the game. Naturally, I never had a chance to experience this, so I decided to go and sure enough I landed a free pair of tickets to the game. To be honest, with rain in the forecast I would not have taken it otherwise.

 Here is a photo of me posing with the two tickets that I was given.

            When I was in one of my later classes, I saw the rain and groaned as I knew that batting practice was cancelled immediately. I then got a text stating that the tarp would go on the field at four, an hour earlier and it confirmed my worst fears that there would be no batting practice.

            I went to this game with my friend Andrew, and ultimately got the first spot in line. I was just ahead of Ian Weir and Erik and Nick opted not to go because the tarp covered the field.

      Here’s proof of the line behind me. I know not much of a line, but that was the line just moments before going into the ballpark.

           

    And then this is Ian and myself.

When the gates opened, I charged in ahead of the pack. The gates actually took longer to open, because they were trying to work the scanner. I immediately searched thick and thin for Easter eggs and overran one which Ian got. I have mixed feelings about it as of course I wanted to add to my total, but the ball was soaked and was bigger. It essentially was a play that was similar to how I performed on Saturday.

            Evan Meek then came out to throw with a fellow Pirate. I was too far away to see who it was, but he waved to me. He ended up tossing the ball to someone else, and it was almost time for the other gates to open, so I was getting ready to change into my Giants gear. All of a sudden, Meek was walking towards the bullpen. I was well aware that there was a ball in the visitor’s side of the bullpen, and I pointed it out to Meek (something along the line of “Hey Ev I think there is a ball in the bullpen” “Really, where? Oh I see it. Here you go”). He appreciated it, and ended up lobbing it up to me and with no competition I snagged my first ball of the day.

            I then went into the outfield and was about to start searching but I had a feeling that Ian had already searched the area between my time of getting the ball from Meek, and thus I went to the first baseline, where various Giants pitchers were warming up.

            The tarp was still on the field, however there was no rain, nor any impending threat of rain. Various pitchers were warming up, and I ended up getting lucky. Ian was right next to me and had his Giants gear, but I had a leg up on him, as I had gone on ESPN’s website earlier in the morning, and printed up the roster and some pitchers. I was able to correctly identify Madison Bumgarner, and after he finished his running, he picked up the ball. Everyone’s attention was elsewhere, and Ian was motioning for the ball. I somehow got a “Madison” out and before I even asked anything, I was thrown ball number 2, as I made an easy backhanded catch.

            I then tried other opportunities, however those did not work. I decided this was a good time to take a short break. Tim Lincecum had just finished pitching in the bullpen and came out. He ended up signing autographs, and I figured sure why not. I had him sign the ball that Bumgarner threw me, and although his signature much like Ubaldo Jimenez’s looks like weird scribble scrabble, it was cool to have his signature. Thanks Tim for rewarding the few fans that were there!

            I also got to see Brian Wilson but he didn’t sign autographs and his toss up went to the second deck. It was cool to see his beard.

  As for the game, it did not start on time. The game did begin at 7:50 even though no rain even fell. While we waited, we got to see Matt Cain warm up.

 

I missed on Andrew McCutchen’s first inning toss up and Garrett Jones’s second inning toss up although I was in the right section in both instances. With Cutch’s third inning toss up, it was clearly meant for me, however it was underthrown, and I had no play on it and I tried to recover but could not in time and was not happy about it. I continued the trend in the fourth as I was not even close on the Jones tossup.

           Meanwhile Charlie “Electric Stuff” Morton was dealing and pitch six plus solid innings. Good for Charlie after a poor start in his previous outing.

            With no homers heading out let alone my way, I knew that I had thus far snagged two baseballs and thus tied my mark from Saturday despite not even having any BP. In the fifth inning, I set myself up in a similar position to the catch from the Thursday game against the Brewers. Ian was unaware of this position as he had not seen this and neither Erik or Nick were in play, so Cutch gave me a chance, and I made a jump similar to that Thursday catch, and sure enough caught it on the top of my glove again. It was ball number 3 of the day.

            That was it for the day, as despite a cranky back yet again, I was able to run throughout the Riverwalk and left field. I left shortly after nine with the game in the sixth inning.

            The listed attendance for the game was just under 10,000 however clearly less people were at the game.

            I have a big day tomorrow with my media interviews. As a side note, I have been told not to post any of the quotes onto the blog and thus will respect these wishes. I may post an impressions post onto the blog, but we’ll see. Looks to be an exciting day.

            Three snags is pretty good for a non rain day and someone who was tired and had four classes or so. I am now at 94 career baseballs, and thus 100 total should be coming very soon.

          Ballhawking Stats:

     Balls snagged: 25

     Balls given away: 15

     Games: 6

Pirates vs Washington Nationals 4/23 PNC Park

 I was glad that I was not at Friday’s game, as there was no game and it was rescheduled for Monday. I am not going to Monday’s game though although Nationals BP was good on Saturday.

 Today’s game just was not a good one as I just felt tired the entire time. My back always goes out, but that was not the case last night. Still I needed only one snag to get to the 21 balls that Erik Jabs said I needed to get closer to my goal.

  I immediately looked in the second deck for Easter Eggs and because of my three hours sleep the night before, I ended up missing a ball that someone else would find later. Matt Diaz also hit a ball that was in my row, but I was talking to a ballhawk named Mike. I just was so lazy and it was mine if I had even decided to run, but it did not happen.

  I started to give up hope, especially since the usual toss up or two I got during BP was not happening and I was just getting really unlucky.

 Just when I was ready to pack it in, Matt Diaz hit it my way. The ball was heading short, and I was playing the bounce. What I did not expect was that the bounce would be off of my leg and instead of wincing in pain, I dove where I thought the ball would land and got my first ball of the day.

 You can see Diaz hitting at the top of the picture.

 Although I was in centerfield at the time of the picture and was inbetween the two left field sections, I decided to recreate the dive while looking at the camera. P.S. it was raining. This was the result:

 Photo taken by Colston Cooper

 My running at this game was by far the worst of the season, so when an unidentified hitter came up and hit a ball to the second deck, I went running up. I ended up getting the hit ball up there which came to rest in the top row of one of the sections and was ball number two on the day. The rest of Pirates BP was a couple more misses and being ignored for toss ups.

 Nationals BP was not good either as no toss up luck was coming. I even asked Chad Gaudin for one by name and he ignored me. Brian Burgess was tossing up a good deal but did not get any. I missed a few homers at center, just missed it. I then tried right field and immediately when I went up there I adjusted my position and it started to drizzle. The last ball was a bomb hit by Rick Ankiel. I had it sized up perfectly but was two rows too short.

 I then walked around the park, hanging with Nick Pelescak at the Diamond Pizza and speaking to a few people, and we even chased down a squirrel that we found. The pregame festivities ended and then I caught up with Colston as the tarp was applied onto the field. The drizzle was not even that significant, and three or so innings could have been played.

 

I was kept updated throughout the whole thing, and the end of the conversation I was told that the big stuff was coming but slowly. When I asked when, I got no response. Then I waited and about 5-10 minutes later I was told 8:15. I was asking myself what he meant and a couple minutes later, I saw that the tarp was removed from the field and the game would start at 8:15. Guess that answered my question.

 Jeff Karstens made the start tonight, and it was his best start in recent memory. He may have nailed down that fifth spot in the rotation until Ross Ohlendorf comes back.

 I was never close to any Jose Tabata or Andrew McCutchen toss ups the entire night.

 At Nick’s urging, I went to left field, and sure enough Jayson Werth hit a homer right to where I was standing. I was lined up to make the catch, but sure enough Nick and Erik leaped. I was praying that something would happen to where they did not get it. Unfortunately for me, Nick had it and thus I had no play on it. I was not happy, but at least I was in the play this time.

 I had no more luck and around 10, I left. I finally was starting to sprint between the middle of the riverwalk and left field, and  had suffered a cramp in my pectoral muscle that for a second I thought could have been serious. I am more than fine, and I plan on being at the park on Tuesday weather depending. 

 

Totals thus far:

Baseballs: 22

Baseballs Given Away: 14

Games Attended: 5

 Here is a final picture for you:

Some news and notes in preparation for the next homestand

The weekend is so close, yet seemingly so far away, and the Pirates come back home on Friday to face the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants. Here is what my plans are for this, the second homestand:

1. My first game will be on Saturday. I work tomorrow, and thus cannot go. The temperature looks very promising for Saturday although the chance for a thunderstorm is really scaring me. This weather needs to go away, and rain is a constant throughout the whole weekend series. I hope the rain will hold off until Sunday when I am not needed to be anywhere.

2. I likely will make an appearance at Tuesday’s game. I know I will be there for BP, however I am unsure as to whether or not I will stay until the first pitch, as I have a class at six. I do not want to miss the Giants BP, so we will see what happens.

3. I will be at Wednesday’s game but not because of ballhawking. For the second time this season, I will have a press credential and hence will be conducting interviews once again. I hope to be able to interview some Pirates but also reach out to the visitor’s clubhouse and interview Giants such as Freddy Sanchez and Tim Lincecum. Hopefully that works out well.

4. My goal for this homestand is to snag 11 baseballs. This would allow for me to hit 100 career baseballs before the end of the first month of the 2011 season. I average five a game thus far, and I will have to step my game up. This is a huge reason why I want to be at PNC on Tuesday. If not, I will definitely snag number 100 at some point in the Dodgers series that occurs in early May and thus is the next homestand. I am proud of what I have done thus far this season, as my efforts have placed me fourth in the BHL, when I was in the middle of the pack last season. I have definitely raised my game and made many improvements and it is great to know that they are working.

5. My parents gave me a great gift for Passover.  When I came home from my last class, they were waiting, and a strange chair was sitting there. My parents told me that it was my present and it was a chair from the press box of Three Rivers Stadium. How awesome is that??!! I love my new present, and I will likely use it while I am playing my PS3. It is just a thoughtful gift that combines my love for the Pirates with my huge interest in journalism.

6. Lastly, i have been playing MLB 11: The Show as much as possible, which is not much. I finally got into Road to the Show mode, and it is really good. The announcers need more sayings, but I have pitched nearly 175 innings and have struck out 180 batters…. in Double-A. The Pirates never had a roster spot for me though, and thus traded me to the Chicago White Sox for Omar Vizquel, which i guess solved their current shortstop problem. After the first season was over and I pitched and lost the decisive game of the AA Championship, i played hardball with the Sox and signed for $410,000 which was more than the $375,000 they were offering me. Now I am going to be the second or third starter for AAA and we shall see what happens.

 All in all, there is a lot to look forward to this homestand, and hopefully I can overcome the odds, and achieve this goal, but if I do not, I know that come May I can get the job done. I should have my Saturday recap up on Sunday.

Why the Pirates have been slumping

Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.

First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.

Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.

 Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.

Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220’s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.

Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.

 Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.

Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.

Ballhawking thru one homestand

Total Balls Snagged: 20

Total Balls Given Away: 14

Total Balls Snagged Via Hit: 8

Total Balls Snagged Via Thrown: 9

Total Balls Found: 3

Total Balls Given Away Thru Four Games Last Season: 7

My favorite Snags Thus Far:

1. First Ball that I snag each year is special, and although it wasn’t exactly thrown or hit, it was found on the bleacher general admission area and the ball had a nice hole in the middle. A nice way to start the season right away.

2. Andrew McCutchen toss-ups were common last season, and I got my first on Saturday when my seats were in section 141. I had no chance of moving, as all of center field was packed, and thus had to hope that someone would drop the tossups, as all I could do was backup the throw. Sure enough two people dropped it, and I correctly predicted where the drop would land, and it dropped right into my glove.

3. My first true run of the year was on Thursday, and I finally was able to run close to 100%. I am almost certain that Ryan Braun hit a BP home run and Nick Pelescak was running right behind me, and I tracked it just in time.

4. Lastly was my most athletic catch so far. Andrew McCutchen was going to toss up hs fifth inning toss-up, and I kept adjusting my position because of Erik and Nick doing the same. Ballhawks were converging all over me hoping I would drop the toss-up as Cutch was throwing me the ball. The throw was a little long, and luckily I timed a jump correctly and got the ball off the top of my glove with the ballhawks breathing down my neck. Not bad, and it showed that I was for real and changed my strategy from last season.

My interviews at PNC Park 4/13/11

 *Note: Before I begin, I do want to say that I left a couple of quotes out, but these do not affect what you are reading. Enjoy!

Pittsburgh Pirates Media Interviews

Pregame:

Manager Clint Hurdle:

1.      What does a rainout do to you, particularly the pitchers?

“It’s plays out in different ways. There’s times you really prefer to keep playing and there’s times when a day off is nice. We had the day off, and I don’t think that anyone was clawing or scratching and kicking their teeth or was going to walk out the door and head home.”

2.      On Evan Meek being ready for tonight’s game

“He’s fit for duty. He really well could be (in terms of is he still sick).”

3.      Lined up rotation for Cincinnati

“We still have a TBA (to be announced) on the 17th. Friday and Saturday will just fall in order with (Charlie) Morton and (James) McDonald.”

4.      On whether Jeff Karstens is available in relief for Brewers series

“He will be available thru the series.”

5.      Season breakdown in days or weeks?

“I usually break things down into ten game sets. It allows you to look at everyone a little bit.”

6.      Thru ten games now

“I think we have done some things right and some things wrong. There is room for improvement in some areas.”

7.      On Josh Hamilton’s slide and advising players against sliding headfirst

“Yes all of the time. There’s two players in the Major Leagues right now Rafael Furcal and Josh Hamilton that were hurt for sliding first.”

8.      Is there any leeway when a manager argues balls and strikes?

“You are not gone automatically. If you leave the dugout you have a good chance of being gone automatically. I have had running commentary with every ump since the start of the season, some more then others. There are a couple of umps that don’t even acknowledge the fact that you’re there, I’m sure for all the appropriate reasons. Most guys will say, ‘that’s it, any more and you’re gone’.”

9.      On Garrett Jones not being in the lineup

“Yesterday, I was looking at a lineup from the standpoint that we were going to play the three games series and that there were going to be two left-handers. Right now, Matt is swinging the bat better, so this Marcum kid he’s an interesting pitcher, his lifetime splits are reversed. Right handers are hitting 108 points higher against him than left-handers. I already am throwing three left-handers in the lineup today. I’ve encouraged people in the past to live outside the box and be creative and initially I did not do that yesterday and I got to sleep on it for a night, and I thought ‘let’s go do it’.”

10.  On getting switch-hitter Ryan Doumit to bat from the right side of the plate

“We’ve had the talk. I wouldn’t force anybody to do it.”

Charlie Morton:

1.      Where do you weigh in on the whole Electric Stuff groups online?

“Electric Stuff? Do I endorse it (laughs)? I mean I think I have good stuff, do I endorse it, sure (laughs). I appreciate the support.”

2.      On his new arm angle

“We actually started to tinker with it probably in the second week of Spring Training. It’s still kind of new. I think during Spring Training, I was so focused on competing and I hadn’t really adapted to it the way I wanted to. I think now, I’m getting used to it but the first couple starts, there’s going to be some control problems  but my misses are consistent, I’m missing down and in to a righty, and it just shows that I’m not making the adjustment but at the same time it is showing that once I do make the adjustment it will be consistent, I just got to work on it.”

3.      How do you plan on remaining confident and getting ahead of hitters in the count?

“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early. I may have been tipping pitches, I’m not sure, but I know that the hitters were seeing the ball really well. I adjusted some things, and release the ball a little later and as a pitcher, you can see the swings of the hitters, when I started seeing guys late on pitches after the adjustment, even if they were right down the middle, I knew was heading in the right direction, and that allows me to be confident.”

4.      Comparison of new arm slide to Roy Halladay

“An arm angle is one thing, results are another. Is it good that people like my arm angle? Yeah, it’s really good. If I can pitch like him, then I’ll be perfectly happy. I feel that when I can throw a ball down in the zone I’m going to get groundballs.”

5.      Rivalry with Brewers

“It’s similar to what we have struggled with in the past; winning the games on the road. We had a great first road trip, and I think we have something to prove. The key is not dwelling in the disappointment from things that have happened in the past. If we focus on those things, it’s going to bring us down.”

6.      On the fan incidents that happened this week

“I heard about it, I saw a picture of it and someone said it was on YouTube, I haven’t researched it. I heard about the usher that was killed, and stuff like that is more disappointing.”

7.      Anything to add?

“Go Bucs!”

Mike Crotta

1.      The sinker

“It’s got a lot to do with arm slot and just how you finish with your pitch. It’s a little easier for me to throw and Charlie’s pretty much the same way.”

2.      Is that your out pitch?

“That’s generally what I go to, especially being out of the ‘pen, You don’t want to get beat with anything but your best pitch, so I throw it more often then not.”

3.      Secret in terms of bouncing back from a rough outing

“You just need to have short memory. You can’t worry good or bad about what happened yesterday because obviously it doesn’t matter now. There’s nothing I can do about what happened yesterday whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, you just need to look forward and be ready for today.”

4.      What did do between this year and last year to make the team?

“I had the opportunity of making the team, and all I thought about was keeping my pitches down in the zone, and not really worrying about anything else.”

5.      How have you embraced the all-in call that Manager Hurdle has put out?

“You have to, you can’t do anything in this game halfway.”

6.      On his unique ritual before warming up

“I just want to try and get everything going”

7.      Trying to stay fresh for a 162 game schedule

“This is my first time in the bullpen, so it’s going to be a trial by error and learn by watching other people and how they do it and I’m going to try and take bits and pieces of guys that have had successful careers and see if I can mold that into something of my own.”

Postgame:

Manager Clint Hurdle

1.      On Marcum

“It’s what he does when he’s effective. When he left, truth be told, we may have barreled one ball, Overbay’s single, Diaz snuck a single through the middle of the infield, but there were a lot of miss hits along the way. He changes speed very effectively.”

2.      On Correia

“The one pitch hurt. The breaking ball- we wanted it down, and he left it up and Prince hit it to the biggest part of the ballpark.”

3.      On whether it is true that people make Kevin pay for his mistakes

“Yeah. I think that’s accurate. As is the case with most pitchers unless you have top shelf velocity or something like that. If you hang a breaking ball in this league, you’re more than likely going to be backing up a base or rubbing up another one.”

4.      On whether Correia had a play if he had gone after the bunt

“Well, we won’t know. We work very hard on our bunt defenses, we don’t have many of the ones we have. That one was a pitcher priority with a line. You all stood out there in Spring Training, and watched us go through our PFP’s all the time, and his priority was the line. If he gets to the ball, we have to throw to third in a nothing-nothing game. We had a chance of not facing three and four in their lineup, rather than having to.”

5.      Do you ever look at the .500 threshold in terms of wins and losses?

“No. It’s too early. My focus on us is playing with complete games and finishing games, getting better in every aspect every day we’re out there. We weren’t able to generate any offense tonight. We made a couple of mistakes on the mound, and paid for them and those are the things I am focusing on.”

6.      Evan Meek’s return back onto the mound and the bullpen

“It was very solid, I thought. I like the way that Crotta came back in and threw strikes, like the way Evan came in, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but it would be a big help to have him back in the back end of the bullpen again.”

7.      After being called back into Hurdle’s office for “not talking enough about the team losing the game”, the statement given by Hurdle:

“We’ve optioned Jason Jaramillo back to Indianapolis and we will activate Chris Snyder for tomorrow’s game.”

Kevin Correia

1.      The pitch to Prince Fielder

“I just hung it a little bit.”

2.      Overshadow five good innings you had?

“No, it was a bad pitch but it never should have gotten to that. I should have been out of the inning before that, and just one play with the pitcher. I didn’t field the ball the way I needed to, so it is what it is.”

3.      Think that bunt was going to go to Pedro?

“I had the line on that play, we’ve worked on it and worked on it. I threw the ball and I got over there, and I don’t know what, I think he just bunted it hard, and the grass kind of ate it up, but I’ve got to field that ball.”

4.      What do you make of your first few innings?

“I was pitching well, just getting outs. It only takes one inning, and I had a bad inning at a bad time.”

5.      Enjoying the pitching battle

“We had a good game plan and it was working, and I kind of went against it that inning, and I got hurt. I was staying with hard pitches down, and then I just flipped a curveball up there and I hadn’t thrown him that pitch yet, he was just on it.”

Jason Jaramillo

1.      Snyder

” I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on, obviously they had to make a move, so I’m going to go do my job, and try to get back up here as soon as possible.”

2.      Benefit for playing more

“I’ve feel like I’ve shown that I deserve to play here, and was doing a great job.”

3.      Take out of spring training

“The atmosphere and just what Clint has rubbed off of all of us and how much fun it is again. I’ve had a lot of fun here and learned a lot.”

Lyle Overbay

1.      On Marcum’s repertoire

“You don’t get to see what it does exactly, but I kind of have an idea of what he’s trying to do and he doesn’t make mistakes and when you’re down in the zone, you’re going to get a lot of groundballs, and he did a pretty good job tonight.”

2.      Did Marcum do anything differently than what you prepared?

“No. He’s going to throw that pitch down and away or he’ll mix it in, mix the cutter in, and throw the changeup and he’s got a good changeup. You’ve got to see it a couple of times, and realize how good it is.

3.      On Marcum’s velocity possibly being down

“Usually that’s where he’s at, 84-86. That’s just one of those things where it looks good coming in, and then all of a sudden, he gets such late movement that by the time it gets to your barrel, it’s moved off the plate and you’re hitting it off of the end instead of barreling it up.”

Joel Hanrahan

1.      How does it feel to be the closer?

“I feel good about it. Obviously, it’s an important three outs at the end of the game, and I feel like I can handle the job, and look forward to the opportunity.”

2.      How do you feel that you’ve matured as a closer?

“I think it’s a little early to tell that, but obviously my mindset is to go out there and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself, when before every out was a pressure situation where I kind of take that pressure off myself and just go out there and have fun.”

3.      What is the most important thing for you being in the closer’s role?

“Well there’s 24 other guys and eight coaches that are depending on me to finish the job and I just want to go out there and do it for everybody. It’s a team effort, and as long as we can all hold the lead in the ninth.

4.      Any more exhilarating feeling for you than just the 1-2-3 ninth inning?

“That’s a great day any day you can do that. It’s a long season, long year, and the games are kind of long themselves, so once you get those three outs, everybody’s kind of relaxed a little bit more, and it’s one of the best feelings you can earn that day.”

5.      Embracing Manager Hurdle’s all-in philosophy

“When I have a pair of pocket aces, I go all-in. You can tell that he’s definitely got our back, and that’s a big thing to know that a manager has your back, and it makes you want to play a little harder for him. We’re just trying to embrace everything that he’s trying to teach us, and use it out there in the game.”

6.      How have you guys have struggled at home but done well on the road, a change from the past couple of seasons. How have you changed your success on the road ?

“Back to the home part, it’s been a tough home series for us, where got in late Wednesday night, and then turn around and play on Thursday morning where that was our first time coming to Pittsburgh, and half the team it is their first time being in Pittsburgh, and the adjustment period of being settled into your apartment, and trying to get back to the normal life is not easy. Our goal on the road, is to go up there and change the things that we did last year, and we started off good with the first road trip, and obviously we need to both at home and on the road.”

7.      In your time, what have you made of the Pittsburgh-Milwaukee baseball rivalry?

“Well it’s kind of been one-sided and we need to do our part to turn that around. They’re a good swinging ballclub over there, and they’re going to play hard all of the time and we just need to step up a little bit against them.”

8.      What do you make of the incidents that happened at the ballpark this home stand?

“It’s stupid. There’s no reason for anybody to go on the field during the game, and I’m not going to come into your office and streak through your office, that would be just stupid, right? It puts us in danger, because you never know what could be happening. The thing that happened the other night, apparently the guy was drunk, so it’s not safe for anybody. Better him going home with the cops then getting behind the wheel of a car.”

9.      Anything else that you would like to add?

“No, I gotta go home bud.”

 

 

Pirates vs Milwaukee Brewers 4/14/11 PNC Park

 I came off a huge eight ball performance in the previous game, and knew that I was taking a huge risk by coming today. Going into today, I had a streak of 14 straight games of snagging at least one baseball. Erik Jabs told me that in order to reach my goal of 128 baseballs, my average would have to be in the three or four balls a game range, and going into the game, I was over five. He told me that I would have to snag 21 baseballs before the end of the month, and going into tonight’s game, I had snagged 16 in three games. Thru three games last season, I had five baseballs and thus I am well ahead of where I was at last year, in fact, more than three times better.Thru four games last season, the total was boosted to seven, so could I top the two balls I caught in game four last season?

 Going into the game I was not sure of what my goal should be. My lowest game was snagging four baseballs twice. I have gotten off to a fast start in April and had set a goal of two with the understanding that it may be too much to ask for. I had only 30 minutes of BP, mostly filled with Pirates just hitting lefties and no real lefty power. I was going to be on the field for Season Ticket Holder of the Game and this would take away from an eventful and snagging filled total.

 I was actually worried that I would get shut out and the Pirates were not hitting much of anything out and they weren’t throwing any tossups, in fact one trainer robbed Erik of a snag much to the delight of Daniel McCutchen.

 Something that pleased me, was that I was getting close to full strength. My running patterns and speed today were the best they have been all season, and I was able to cover a lot of ground. I nearly beat out Erik for a batted ball that normally would easily have been his snag. I was in the middle of left field and then ran close to the foul pole and just got beat out. A ball immediately then came Nick Pelescak’s way and I had to sprint all of the way back to a center table and just got there in time but Nick got it as his glove got down before mine. If I can cover that much ground without gasping for air, then the other ballhawks are in trouble.

 I am recovering from there run here.

 I did get lucky during the first group of Brewers BP as I was able to snag a homer for ball number 1. This extended my streak of consecutive balls in a game to a respectable 15 straight games, as I have not been shutout since August 20, 2010 a game against the Florida Marlins.

 It was 5:30 at this point, and I was to meet my agent, but I first wanted to search center field for Easter Eggs. I found nothing and quickly searched the back row and found nothing. Because I checked out the back row, I missed out on a BP homer to Jim Saylor. I was disappointed as I had a feeling that things would start to pick up, but at this point I was late in meeting my person so that I could be recognized on the field.

 My agent gave me to feeling that we would be on the field for BP and that excited me, however we were taken to the conference room to sit for 15 minutes. I had mixed emotions, as my body was physically exhausted for the wear and tear of the homestand and media obligations Wednesday. I still was a competitor and the day was looking to be a less than stellar one.

 The idea was for us to be on the field at 6 to watch the end of their BP, but the Brewers just like yesterday were trotting off the field when we all got on.

 When I went out to the area, I immediately saw a baseball that was left there and grabbed it for ball number 2. At that point I just stood on the field with others waiting for our various honors. Here is the pass we were given so that we could go on the field.

Photo taken by Colston Cooper

 I had to wait the longest in the line there, as the other two people were throwing out pitches. I did get to play catch with the Pirate Parrot. I already had played catch outside, but there really wasn’t anything better to do, and plus not many get to do that. We were quite close together though and that made it a little more predictable but it was still a good time.

 I then was recognized standing out on the field all by myself. I had to wave for what seemed like forever. I thought I had forced my smile but that was not the case.

 While on the field, Clint Hurdle came and made small talk with us while shaking out hands.

 “Back for more,” he asked me.

 Yep, I figured somebody would remember me from yesterday, but Clint actually said it. I actually wanted to ask him if BP on Sundays would continue as it did this past Sunday, but I never asked.

 The following is a cell phone photo taken by Colston. This explains the poor quality.

 I was supposed to deliver the lineup cards with Hurdle, however for some reason they did not do lineup cards and we went inside. I was so disappointed and thus the Pirates faced my wrath losing 4-1.

 As for the ceremony itself, it was the longest 10 seconds of my life. Smiling and waving, oh dear I feel for Ms. America. Anyways, my friend Kayla was by the bullpen watching Paul Maholm warmup, and the following photo was taken while I was on the jumbotron.

 

 I knew that I wanted to try and get the first tossup, however the elevator took two minutes or so and then I had to run from the middle of the 100’s section to the riverwalk center field area. It is not a short walk and I actually did finally bump into a woman literally when I was on the Riverwalk, I did not fall but the time may have cost me, as I missed the toss-up.

 I was able to get ball number 3 by making my best catch of the year. Erik, Nick and others kept changing their position on me. I was able to realize this unlike last year and picked the right around to be by myself. The throw from Andrew McCutchen was high and my gloove felt passive and I was worried, however I was excited, as I made the athletic famly.

 I am tired so going to cut this entry short. Ball number 4 came when I was by the bullpen when Herbie Andrade threw me a ball. I had reached my low of four and now stood at 20 2011 run. I now need one more ball to breaking that quota I need.

 I now have snagged 20 baseballs and it is exciting. I have started out very hot and fast I am excited.

 Baseballs Snagged: 20

 Total Baseballs: 89

 Total Baseballs given away in 2011: 14

 Notes: I am only 11 balls away from 100. I am quite excited.

 Next entry will and I repeat will come after the soap

About my next entry

Ok I am about to change what I am about to do. I am going to tonight’s game and will ballhawk, thus putting my streak of 14 straight games with at least one baseball in jeopardy. I only have half an hour before I am whisked away to the field, so yeah my chances are slim but I am hoping that not many show up and thus I have a chance at a tossup. I likely will not be leaving until I snag at least one ball. As an aside, I only have 15 snags to go until I reach 100 total snags. This is likely to come sometime in May, however if I really hustle considering I am averaging over 5 balls a game right now, that could come in the next homestand if I go to enough games.

 Because I was half asleep and typing at one in the morning I forgot to include one nugget of info. When I was first in Clint Hurdle’s office, the usual journalists were there. Root Sports showed up later as they had the Penguins game on. It is also worth noting that Greg Brown and Tim Neverett were both in there as well listening to what the manager had to say. Neither had a recorder or a note pad and I found that interesting and I guess since both of them were doing the radio call (not sure if this is true) and they seemed interested by Hurdle’s approach.

 Hurdle only had three lefties in the lineup against the righty Shaun Marcum which is interesting, however Hurdle correctly mentioned that righties bat 160 points higher than lefties against the pitcher. He even asked Ryan Doumit to consider hitting from his weaker hitting right-handed side as it would give him a better chance of succeeding.

 Anyways, I will blog next about the game tonight and then more then likely transcibe the interview.

 

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