4/7/11 Opening Day PNC Park
I was getting over a nasal drip and allergies but despite being told that the game was “sold out”, I bought my ticket from Point Park University.
It all came down to a good night’s sleep so after watching Survivor, I immediately went to bed to get that extra half-hour of sleep.
I then fulfilled my obligations, and ended up contributing to a university radio show for two hours before getting some final preparations for the game in and then making the short walk from Point Park to PNC Park.
I fully expected a line to back all the way until the street but the line was not nearly as long. I actually cut to the front of the line with all of the ballhawks, and no one complained which is great.
I slowly but surely caught up with a lot of the ballhawks starting with Harold, Jim Saylor and Ian Weir before quickly jogging down the steps and trying to play homers off of the riverwalk.
The Pirates had started BP early, because of the on-field activities scheduled for 12:40. The gates were expected to open at 11:30 so needless to say, us ballhawks were not pleased. During my couple of minutes down there after the long jog, I was beaten to a ball by both Erik and Nick and my reactions were not great.
Still this was a game that I initially did not commit to, and thus this would be a strike (no pun intended) extra for me.
Going into the game I want to snag at least three. That was what I snagged last season in my ballhawking debut, and I want an overall average of three or higher to make my ballhawking goal.
Erik, Nick and I all went up early in hopes that the ballpark would open at 11 and it did. I got in just ahead of Ian and behind Erik and Nick. The familiar sprint was something I missed a lot and I started searching the lower portions of left field for easter eggs but was coming up empty. This was when the light bulb clicked. I decided to search the second deck as no one was up there.
This ended up being a wise move, as when I went up, I saw a white speck and sure enough I was on the board with ball number 1. It was just too easy, and in fact I could not have asked for more. I was not feeling great and to get on the board like that brought a smile to my face. I quickly surveyed the ball and saw that it had a decent sized hole in it which meant that someone must have had a lot on their swing. I have no idea who hit it, but just for the heck of it will say Tabata.
The first Evan Meek sighting of the 2011 season occurred after he threw a ball to Erik and Nick and actually said, “It’s 1-1 who’s going to come out on top”.He said that he would get us all later and I jokingly responded, “I thought what we had was something special” which drew a laugh out of him. He obviously knows/is more than willing to contribute to our collections.
I did not get lucky though and he never tossed me up one. Also fans decided to sit in the most random places in left field and just blocked my path towards everything. It was very annoying and I swore quite a few times under my breath as it was clearly amateur hour. For obvious reasons, I will not repeat what I said on this blog, but it is ridiculous, we have gloves and moving around you just makes it that much harder and more likely for somebody to get hurt.
I also was trying to take pictures for the blog and missed out on two snags which easily could have been mine, and at that point I thought that I was doomed.
Pirates BP ended and I got nothing else, and I got quite upset as I changed into my Rockies gear. I knew that my chances of getting to my goal were getting more slim by the second as the sellout crowd of 39,219 fans filed into the stadium.
I started out Rockies BP in left field and was coming up empty handed and decided to move my efforts to center field. After some time in center, nothing was happening and I was trying to figure out what to do. Left field was packed at this point and it would have been very hard to be mobile and right field was tough, so I decided to stay.
Shortly after, an unknown Rockies player hit a ball to the warning track. I lined it up and knew that this was my chance. I had the corner spot in center and lined it up. Now I had a new glove and it was broken in very well but this was the first test of my new glove. I never had a chance to throw with anyone because I was sick and the weather was terrible. Also no one was throwing when I showed up. So this was it, and in short I blew it.
The ball did a one hopper into my glove and it just fell out. To make matters worse, the fans in center let out a collective groan. The third bit of bad news was who saw it. Matt Lindstrom threw me my 64th and final ball of the 2010 season, and now he was a Rockies reliever. Would he remember me? No was the answer, but he provided another memorable moment.
I asked Matt if he could help me out and toss me up the ball. He legitimately told me “You dropped it”. That was his actual quote and he mockingly sounded like a first grader. After the “grief” that Lindstrom gave me, he softly tossed up ball number 2.
I then decided to go for the trifecta and challenge myself. I would ballhawk in right field. I only did this a couple of times last year and it did not go well. I think I will ballhawk a little more there especially with some of the hitters that the NL Central has. I first went up and chatted with Big Yellow, Randy Page. The last I had seen him, was when he came onto my radio show for a couple of segments to talk Pirates baseball, so of course it was great to see him.
Of course once I went to right field, the Rockies hit a cold spell. I think maybe one of their hitters even made it over the wall during their entire BP time.
I of course shifted my position and then of course is when that one home run came, right in a place where if I was situated in my previous spot, then I would have been able to snag it.
Still a short time later, an unknown Rockies player had a ball close to the warning track and being the only person remotely close to wearing Rockies gear, I thought that I had a chance to snag it. It ended up that the player threw a terrible toss and it started to go down the stairway in the section I was in. I was closest to the steps and sprinted down the steps getting the ball ahead of five others chasing the ball and thus met my goal with ball number 3.
I left right field after the snag, and moved back to center. I did contemplate chasing foul balls but the Rockies weren’t hitting many out. Troy Tulowitzki was hitting some balls out to left but not many people were able to move to try and get the snag so it got swallowed up by a sea of hands. I came close to a snag of a homer in center. It took a huge bounce and if the guy who snagged it had bobbled it, I would have made an easy snag, but it was not to be.
Rockies BP ended a few minutes after and then the waiting game began. I clumsily looked for my bag that I had left in left field for five minutes until I found that it was moved down.
I then headed to the bullpen, which ended up being my seat for the whole game, because I did not want to sit in my designated seat in the bleacher general admission area.
I was able to watch Paul Maholm warm up which never gets old but he put the baseball in his back pocket and thus I did not get the toss up. I quickly grabbed my things, and moved over to the fenced area right by the bullpen as I knew how the whole move to that area thing would work and I looked quite smart as I got the closest spot that I could.
Closer to the middle of the game, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas got my attention. He explained to me that he was going to throw me a ball but to give it to the little child standing to my left. I agreed and he threw me a nice easy to catch ball and I snagged it for ball number four. I immediately gestured a thank you with my glove and with him watching, quickly gave it to the child. I half expected him to throw another my way, but it was not to be.
I then stood and enjoyed the game, and nothing else snagging wise came my way.
Let me correct myself for a second, there was not much to enjoy about the game as the Pirates lost 7-1.
The highlight of the game at least according to fan applause was a fan who in the ninth inning went onto the field. Two security guards responded a little late, but got on the field. I was surprised that only those two, who were stationed in right field were the only two out. The man encouraged the crowd and the ovation grew louder when he deked a security guard and made him fall onto the grass. Eventually though he was contained and the security person by the bullpen said that the man would be fined $500. The fans all cheered him amidst taking cell phone videos, and a minute or two later Pirates reliever Jose Veras mimiced the man’s actions.
Lastly, the pregame stuff was all nice as the Pirates spent the majority of the time honoring Chuck Tanner who recently passed away. Also Jeff Banister was given the “Pride of the Pirates” Award. Former Pirates Manager and current Rockies Manager Jim Tracy, went out onto the field today with a mixed reaction although I would say that at least 80% of that reaction was in a negative direction.
My next game will be on Saturday against these same Rockies, and Mr. Electric Stuff himself Charlie Morton is expected to go. I was supposed to be interviewed by my school paper but that will not happen. Hopefully I will be able to catch with the glove on Saturday before the game.