September 2011

Who wants to sit in the Luxury Suite?

So I got an email from the Pittsburgh Pirates today. Every homestand, the team publishes a free program that fans receive upon entering the gates. The program is called The First Pitch.

Each week the magazine has a contest where you have the chance to win a prize. Regardless of whether or not you won, you had a chance to win the grand prize, which was you and 14 guests spending a game in the 2012 season in a Luxury Suite. I am unsure as to who I will take, so at this point I am gathering names to see who is interested. I have no idea how many slots will be available but I do know that to receive consideration I am highly considering that you make a donation to my Ballhawking 2011: Proudly Supporting The Children’s Institute Initiative. This is a win-win. If you win, then the ticket is free and you are helping some Amazing Kids. Even if you would not get a suite ticket, then you would still win as you would be helping out kids and who doesn’t like helping out.

If you are interested shoot me an email at yngzc@yahoo.com or tweet me @wewill1992. I hope that you are interested and I will see you at the ballpark!

Before I go, here is the information on the luxury suites straight from the Pittsburgh Pirates official website:

“Luxury Suite Package offers you and 14 guests an exclusive first-class experience in a Luxury Suite for a Pirates baseball game.

Your ticket gives you a seat in one of PNC Park’s Luxury Suites along with:

•Four (4) VIP parking passes
•Option to purchase four (4) additional suite tickets at $35 per ticket
•Catering by Levy Restaurants (food and beverage are additional)
•Pittsburgh Baseball Club Access
•Complimentary game programs, starting lineups and scorecards
•Outdoor and indoor seating
•Private restroom

Luxury Suite Package
$2,000
Premium Dates* – $3,000

Thank you list 2011

Here is the list of people I have to thank for the 2011 baseball season:

1. My parents- You topped my list last year, and top it again this year. Every game now, you guys have called me to see how many baseballs I have caught. Now that they finally understand the concept of ballhawking, they always are excited to see how I did and even how I got them.

2. Colston- What is there to say? You have been with me through thick and thin and I congratulate you. Your pictures and videos makes the whole experience even funner and when I have to face this long off-season, I will watch a video or look at a picture and put a smile on my face. I am so glad that we are friends, and you have always been dependable.

3. Jaclyn Mereyl- It has been two years and there has not been a restraining order yet! In all seriousness, being my season ticket holder representative is a lot of work, and Jaclyn is a true professional at her job. She has always been very nice to me and has answered almost every question, ticket request and phone call I put out there. You cannot ask for more than that.

4. Anyone who donated to Ballhawking 2011: Proudly Supporting The Children’s Institute: This year was more of a beta test to see how this would do. If all goes according to plan, then this will be back bigger and better next season. I was touched by those who donated, and I will not name names, but some of you really stepped up to help these kids and I could not be more grateful.

5. Erik Jabs- I still remember that first day at BP when I ran into you. I hope that the league will have more of a prescence next season as it seemed to unofficially stop for whatever reason. The advice and encouragement you always give me helped, and it was great throwing batting practice to you.

6. Nick Pelescak- It was a rainy BP when the Reds were in town in April of 2010 when we first met, and I really appreciate you being there for me. Maybe I will do those trips to Baltimore, Washington and Cleveland next year now that I am on the healthier side of things. As it stands, that rain costs us both great seasons and I know you will eclipse that 400 ball mark next season.

7. Ian Weir- It is ashame that for whatever reason you had an off year. I really enjoyed and thrived off of your competition last year. Hopefully you are back next season more often. I always enjoy criticizing PNC Park’s music with you and also watching you lose my baseballs each time I play catch with you. Oh well.

8. Jim Saylor, Baseball Joe and Harold- The older generation represented again this year! Jim, you really need to stop joking around with me. Your advice though it great. Joe, your energy is endless and throwing with you outside of the ballpark is a real treat each time. Harold, there’s a reason why I am not in right field too much :)

9. Randy “Big Yellow” Page- I really treasure the friendship that we have. You have done a lot for me, and I hope that you feel that I have returned the favor to you. You really make the PNC Park experience a lot funner than I ever thought it would be. Keep in touch!

10. Frank Coonelly- I called you once and emailed you on a couple of occasions about articles I was doing for the Point Park Newspaper and he helped without complaint. His information was very valuable and I am forever grateful.

11. Joe Klimchak- We still always go on a first name basis with each other. We really have great talks, and we always have fun and keep each other company at the ballpark when we can. I have heard rumors that they are scaling back the in-game entertainment next season. That would be a huge mistake as Joe has bundles full of energy, and that energy goes right back into the fan base.

12. Walt “Camera Guy” Srocki- It was great interacting with you this season. Let me know about that shirt, congrats again on your recent marriage and don’t be a stranger.

13. Zean Chen- It was great going to the games with you. Sure we went at different times, but it was great getting to sit and enjoy games. I do not do that often. Also, you still need to work on your singing.

14. Herbie Andrade- I always enjoy saying hello to you and conversate whether it is in English or Spanish. Have a great off-season!

15. Euclides Rojas- I really appreciate your story and how you overcame so much. I wish you nothing but the best, and I hope to see you in April.

16. PNC Security- You guys always made the effort in talking to me and getting to know me. Patrick’s smile everytime he saw me was infectious. Kate, the convos we had were always some of my favorite combinations. Travis, it really was cool getting to know you and talk to you. Calvin, oh boy I don’t even know what to say, just be cool and take it easy this off-season. To all in general, I hope to see you next season and I don’t want to see any nonsense.

17. Fred “Derf” Davis- I tried to come up and see you as much as I could, and I really enjoyed talking with you. Remember, “Have a great night with a Miller Lite”. Have a happy New Year and I will see you in shul soon.

18. All of the blog readers- Your support means a lot, and it lets me know that at least I am doing something right. I hope to continue to maintain this blog regardless of whether or not I work for the Pirates or become a season ticket holder. I will keep up to date in the off-season and I will let you know what happens from there. Thanks to all of you, you are what makes me keep writing this blog!

Pirates vs Cincinnati Reds 9/25 PNC Park

It has been fun watching the Pirates compete this season, and I found it very tough to say goodbye to them. It always is a tough process, and each time I feel like I am going to cry. At times it seems as if they are my entire life, but fortunately (or unfortunately you be the judge), I am in only my second year of college, so I still have some elements of life.

I woke up later than I wanted to, and then had bussing troubles, as the place where I normally catch my bus was closed due to The Great Race, which stunk. I had to hightail it up to a different street where it was a 45 minute wait for a bus. That is the longest ever in Pittsburgh that I have waited for a bus and approached New York territory in terms of the time. On the bright side, the bus took a much faster route, passing colleges and universities that normally draw lots of people and stops.

Surprisingly, I was still second in line. I really thought that being the last home game of the season, that it would be a big turn out, but everyone to the east of the area (also known as before the bridges) were all having trouble in getting to the ballpark.

I was glad when I went in, but even then I was confined as per typical Sunday procedure to the Riverwalk. I patiently waited by the gate and tried to plan my run so I could be the first into the third base side to get a baseball.

The jumbotron was showing winners of player jerseys, but I didn’t win. What hurt was that I was one seat away fron winning a Ronny Cedeno jersey. That would have been cool.

Alas at 11:30, the gate opened and the race was on. I of course was in my element, and blew everyone out of the water. In fact apparently while I was running, there was an overthrow so when I was running down the third base side steps, Daniel McCutchen the Pirates reliever was running up for the baseball. He probably thought that I was trying to take it, so I slowed to a stop and let him take it. He must have appreciated that I did that, because when I stopped and he went over the barracade and on to the field, he looked at me and threw the baseball for ball number one. I thought that was pretty cool.

I watched the Pirates throw afterwards, and ended up having a brief conversation with Chris Leroux.

After that the race was on to the Reds side of the field, where I got into my Reds gear and got ready.

Sure enough, my guy from yesterday Matt Maloney who gave me my 200th career baseball was one of the first out, and he had a baseball.

I held up my glove, and he said to me, “I threw you one yesterday.”

“I know,” I replied. “I just wanted to play catch with you.”

That actually was the truth, as I never have had the opportunity to play catch with a Major Leaguer. All of a sudden, he opted to throw me the baseball. So we threw back and forth for a good two minutes. It was awesome, and even better, was the fact that Colston who was with me, used his instincts and took a very short video of the event.

It was tough to throw hard, because Carlos Fisher was running, and another Red was right next to him, so I did not throw my hardest by any means as I did not want to injure any of their players. Looking at the video, I wish that I had come through more with the shoulder, but I was just thrilled to be catching with a Major Leaguer.

I counted that as ball number two and watched the team throw before it was 12:10. Randomly, an usher and I were making small talk during which he asked how we had so much opposing team gear. I replied and discussed my charity. To my surprise as I watched the Reds throw, he stuck ball number three into my glove. He said it was left over from yesterday and he didn’t have a kid to give it to. Since the usher was a PNC Park employee, I counted and accepted the baseball. I was quite pleased at that point.

I knew I had to change back into my Pirate gear as soon as I could as at 12:00 they had started at the gates taking pictures and thanking fans.

Colston and I darted through the area and first ran into Manager Clint Hurdle. I have impersonated Hurdle on numerous occasions, keying on the words “all-in”, and Colston was on the verge of laughter when we saw him. We knew we had to go in there. He shook my hand, and then posed. As I left, I told Clint, “Thanks for going all-in this season”.

Clint replied, saying, “You’re welcome, it has been fun going all-in and I am glad you noticed the efforts we made to going all-in again next year. We hope to see you next season”.

I was on the verge of tears, I wanted to laugh so hard. In all seriousness though, Clint Hurdle was the right man for the Manager’s job and the team improved by 15 wins over last season, so he clearly did something right.

I then ran into Leroux, who was with Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton. He remembered me right away, and he shook my hand and we all posed. Remember though, I was the first one who told Charlie Morton about “Electric Stuff”, and he really got a kick out of it. I did not remind him about that though.

I then went to another location which was crowded and I didn’t really see anyone there. So I hit another crowded place, and thus ran to the Highmark Legacy Square entrance, where the first person I saw was Evan Meek.

Meek has been my buddy since late last season, and he greeted me with a splow and a man-hug. Meek really loves me and the picture turned out rather funny. He then told me, “have you met Daniel McCutchen?”

Daniel then perks up and said, “hey, I threw you a baseball today.”

I then said, “Yes thank you, and I really appreciate it,” before I went into my snagging for charity, and why I did what I did. He really seemed to respect what I was doing, and maybe this keeps me in the in crowd.

I then posed with Daniel and Ryan Ludwick before looking at the area.

I then saw Euclides Rojas, and I had to get a picture with him. He waved and was glad to see me, and honestly I was glad to see him. He waved me over for a picture and then I told him, “Euclides it has been a real honor getting to know you this year.” I meant what I said, especially with his story of fleeing Cuba and spending time in Guantanamo Bay before making it to the US. He seemed really touched as he shook my hand.

I then talked to and posed with Luis Silverio, speaking entirely in Spanish. He just like the last time really got a kick out of it.

I then got to meet Derrick Lee before the time was up. There were only a couple of minutes left, and I knew that I would not be able to get anymore pictures, so I called it quits.

As I was getting out from the left field area, I saw some Pirates players. I felt like I was going to the bullpen and was high fiving a lot of guys from Garrett Jones and Brad Lincoln to Jason Grilli and Herbie Andrade who gave me the customary “Hola Papi, como estas?”

Both myself and Colston then explored the team store, and then went by the bullpen for the final time.

It was then gametime, and I got to say hello to a lot of the guys and then I went to the outfield seat I had.

The it started to rain for 10 minutes and stop. I decided that was the time for me to move to the baseline seat I had ordered. That was a whole other ordeal on Friday when I actually ran into Andrew McCutchen and wished him luck. I was in a hurry and the rain was not helping anything that day either.

Still, I was able to pace myself and get closer and closer to the dugout with each inning until I was a couple of sections over in the last inning, making for an easy run.

My first job was to try and get an umpire ball. This went a little long as some guy had something that he wanted all four of the day’s umpires to sign. Then he got the lineup card. I then asked for a baseball and being that I was the only one who asked, Lance Barrett the home plate ump that game tossed me one before disappearing. I still was able to secure a spot by the dugout, but nothing really was tossed up. It was a disappointment and in years past, players would sign hats and then toss them up.

Still it was a great season, and when I met back up with Colston, we slowly and sadly made our way out of the ballpark.

I then decided to hit the team bus and literally watch them leave. They did not leave until after 6. When they did, the busses beeped.

All in all the homestand went as well as they could have and on Saturday, I got a signature from Joey Votto and Hurdle signed on Sunday.

It was hard to leave the ballpark, especially because of all of the great moments I had while there. It is going to be a long off-season. Perhaps god was trying to tell me to move on, when I ran into Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby right by my bus stop. He was nice as could be, but still, the off-season will be even longer and even more painful than ever before. At least pitchers and catchers report February 18.

Here is what I have planned to have blogged for you by weekend’s end:

1. Thank you list
2. My personal season highlights
3. Yearly Awards Ceremony
4. Year end grades for each player

Will be a lot of work, but will be worth it. Until then, Let’s Go Bucs!

Pirates vs Cincinnati Reds 9/24 PNC Park

Due to a severe illness, I was forced to miss the entire Cardinals series. The rain during that time period did not help anything either. I had planned on attending all three games, so you know it was a serious illness when I had to miss them all. I also had to skip Friday due to work obligations. This left me with two days and one batting practice to get four baseballs to eclipse my season goal, and seven baseballs to surpass the 200 career baseballs snagged mark.

I arrived at this game early, feeling healthy because of my new gluten free diet and ready to go. I wanted to get that seven at this game and consider everything I snagged Sunday as a strike extra.

I was moving pretty good and my glove work was still fine despite the time off. It was as if I had never left.

When the gates finally opened the PNC Park people were not the swiftest. Only one scanner was ready, and no promotions were out. I actually was intrigued to look at the schedule and perhaps plan out next season.

Regardless, I searched for easter eggs, and came up empty. After a short while in which nothing was being hit out to left field, I made my move and went over to the first base side.

Over there was Jared Hughes and new catcher Matt Pagnozzi. Things were rather slow, and I was surprised to find two ushers over there as well. That set me off a little, as I knew that there would be no easter eggs there either.

I saw a ball that was just out of my reach and I waited for someone to get it, but they did not make much of an effort while over there and I gave up hope in favor of standing closer to my spot.

There two baseballs were hit and I snagged both of them for balls number one and two. I ended up deciding to give both of these to the ushers to give to kids. I did not need those baseballs, and it was those fourth and seventh baseballs that I really wanted.

For my third ball, I just went back down to the wheelchair area and snagged it. It is fuzzy as to who hit it, but I would guess Pedro Ciriaco as he has been the only Pirate willing to hit it there.

As I was snagging my third, a ball landed right by me and I could have snagged it outright, but reliever Jose Veras was coming over, so I did not want him to walk over in vain. Perhaps he sensed the milestone, because with his IPod in his ear, he made a big deal about picking it up. He playfully groaned as he bent over to pick it up and then gave it to me for ball number four and my 128th baseball of the season. I offered him back the third ball and he just told me to keep it.

It was at this point that the Reds came out. I did not want to blow my cover, so I decided to just stay in Pirate gear. I still knew all of the relievers and was on top of my game.

It ended up that I didn’t really need it, and balls number five and six ended up in my glove after overthrows and I could have easily had a seventh if I was quick enough.

I did not have to wait that much longer for a seventh baseball, as another overthrow came and lefty Matt Maloney asked for it back. I gave him a nice throw. He ended up giving it back to me and it was the same baseball (I paid attention) and it was my seventh ball and 200th in my career. I was quite pleased when I got this, again considered everything from there a strike extra.

Well I looked for easter eggs in center field around 5:30 and came up empty, a bummer as was trying to get toss ups from players.

Closer to six, I headed towards the first base line. There, Ian Weir showed up on a tip from me. I had asked closer Francisco Cordero for a baseball in Spanish, but he ended up throwing it to Ian which stunk for me.

We both headed to the dugout to try and get a ball from first base coach Billy Hatcher. I ended up getting two and could have gotten three. The first was a runner, and the second was bobbled to me by the dugout and I drew some blood. It was worth it though to get balls number eight and nine on the day and 201 and 202 in the short career.

I went by the Pirates bullpen and got nothing baseball wise. I did get to talk a little to reliever Chris Leroux as well as Evan Meek. Chris Resop joined in asking for football scores from the Miami game and the Clemson game and I supplied those to him. I unfortunately did not get a baseball out of that, and did not ask/demand him for one either.

I left right after that, as I knew that because of The Great Race the next day, it would be an earlier than normal morning and the commute would be death. There also was a Steve Miller Band concert after the game, and I was not going to contend with that. Plus, it was my first game back and I was staying all game Sunday, so I did not want to harm my body.

Still at this game, it was nice to get the monkey back and snag nine baseballs. It was my most productive day from a snagging standpoint and also brought a lot of money to charity.

Stay tuned for my next entry to see how I fared on the final Pirate home game of the season.

Season Ticket Holder Field Days 2011

It is a known fact, that watching the Pittsburgh Pirates can be hard to do, however it is also a fact that when it comes to treating their season ticket holders well, the Pirates succeed with flying colors.

This weekend, the Pirates had their annual field days, where season ticket holders are allowed to go onto the field and hit, play catch and field flyballs/pop ups.

I attended this event Friday from 11 AM until 1 PM. Upon arriving I was split into a group and played catch for 30 minutes, when I was switched over to the station where I fielded pop ups. Last year, I did this and did not fare to well, as I was ill and had a tough time seeing the baseball. I dropped quite a few baseballs and it was a deflating experience. This year, I totally redeemed myself and caught everything I saw. I came, I saw and I conquered. Why I put only one hand on the ball upon catching it, I have no clue, but hey it was working.

Finally, an hour into the session my group got called in to hit. Last year, I looked like a fool as I swung and missed at 19 of the 20 pitches I faced with my only hit being a weak dribbler back to the pitcher’s mound. This year I wanted to do a decent job. I was first up and I picked up a bit and took a practice swing. The first pitch came blazing in from the pitching machine at 60 miles per hour, and I took a big swing but came up with nothing but air. The same thing happened on the second swing, as the ball was way too high. At this point, I was worried that I would fare about the same as last season.

The third pitch came and it was coming at about the same speed right down the middle, I took a big hack and the ball landed right in the outfield for a very respectable hit. At that point, I could relax and I started swinging even harder at balls. I kept hitting them up colliding it with the top of the cage that protected the plate. Still, I was hitting a lot of baseballs hard and some into the outfield. I ended my first round with a weak dribbler down the first base line. Because time was short, I ended up with only three more pitches and after hitting the first two into the outfield, I ended with a weak dribbler down the first baseline.

After the time was up, I made my way over to section 101 where I ate lunch with the other season ticket holders who came at the same time.

Overall, the event was fun and allowed me to appreciate what the players go through each day, but I do have one complaint. I really was looking forward to fielding in the infield. When I played Little League, I excelled in the infield and I was wondering how I would do back at my old stomping grounds, but I never got the chance. The grounds crew did not allow for any season ticket holders to use the infield because the Pirates still had three more home games to play. This upset me, as they do not have a home game until Friday and the PNC Park Field Days ran from Friday until Sunday of this past week. This would give the grounds crew more than enough time to fix the infield should something have happened. At Heinz Field, many high school teams play their championship games and then as little as a day later, the Steelers would play a game. I just did not see that big of a deal in us using the infield.

Still, the event was fun, and if I get the opportunity, will look forward to it again next year as well.

Here are a couple of videos for you of me at the event. I still was sick at the time:

Pirates vs Florida Marlins 9/10 PNC Park

I went to this game, my 42nd of the season by myself again, and got a ticket from Stubhub to attend this game. I arrived a little later than normal on my Saturday routine but somehow I was first in line. I guess others wanted to hit the Pitt football game before they came to PNC.

Instead of stretching, I sat back and enjoyed myself until Erik and Jim showed up. Then I got up, did a brief stretch and then left with Erik to start throwing. For some reason, my arm was still out from yesterday, so I was feeling it when I was throwing. I have no idea why my body felt this way, as even with a ton of throwing, I am always fine, but I felt it when I threw. That did not affect how far I could throw it, but it was not the best feeling in the world. Still, I was able to catch better than I ever had outside of the ballpark and it was fun to do.

I then took my spot of first in line. It rained for a little while, and I thought that BP would be cancelled considering the grounds crew, but BP was still on. With that, I then went into the ballpark looking for easter eggs. I searched the lower level first and had to race against Erik and Nick. I found nothing in the lower level, and then went up to the second deck where I saw two. Nick was closer to the one, and after a quick look he left. I really thought at the end, I saw a ball so I went over and looked, and sure enough the ball was there for ball number one. I was quite surprised the ushers did not tamper with these two.

I stayed in left field for a while longer and when I did, a funny thing happened. A homer was hit into a section, and I had a short run, and hopped the little barrier, as it was intended for people who use a wheelchair. Being left-handed was a disadvantage here and Nick and I arrived at the same time, and being right-handed, he had a better play on it and got it. I tried to hop the same barricade again, but when I did, I knew something didn’t go right. I was going to come up a bit short on my landing. My landing was important, because if I failed I could have sidelined myself for the rest of the season. My fall was not graceful as it looked like I flailed on a push up and thus my arms and toes hit first. Before I could check to see if I was ok, I jumped right back up and went for the next ball. I did a quick walking/running test and I was fine, and my big toe ended up hurting for only a few minutes. I could deal with that as it could have been a LOT worse, so I had a laugh at my own expense and moved on.

Speaking of moving, during this time, I decided to go up the escalators to see who would be in right field. No one followed me, and I would be the first one down to the first base side. I was all by my lonesome.

There were no easter eggs over there, but there was Tony Watson, who has thrown me a baseball each time I went over there with the exception being the week where that Texas fan killed himself by trying to go for a baseball.

The moved paid off, as I let the guys do their thing, and a few minutes later Watson was looking at me and tossed me the ball for my second baseball on the day.

I placed it in my pocket, and no more than thirty seconds later, I heard Watson warn me, “look out!” I already knew the ball was coming though, and was going for the catch, but being that I was in the wheelchair section, I ran into a chair, and could not get the glove on it. Still the ball, which was hit by Pedro Ciriaco stayed in the section where I got an easy ball number three.

I had a little time up before Ciriaco came up, and I got ready. He hit another ball to my general territory, but it was a section above and I had no play on it, so I prayed it would not bounce onto the field. I got a break as it hit the steps leading to the section I was in and it rolled down. A good break, as I snagged it for ball number four.

Nothing else was hit my way during Pirates BP, and surprisingly they were hitting some homers, so left field was actually a hot spot today.

As the Pirates were wrapping up BP, the Marlins pitchers and Mike Cameron/Mike Stanton came out. I was still all by my lonesome so, I had no idea what to expect, especially since I left my Pirates gear on.

The following is the conversation that occurred between Marlins relievers Ryan Webb, Burke Badenhop and myself.

Webb: “Hey what’s going on man?”

Me: “Not much how are you?”

Webb: “I’m doing well.”

Badenhop: “What made you decide to come over here?”

Me: “Well, honestly, I am a season ticket holder and when us season tickets come in, they confine us to left field, so Saturday is my day to explore and I usually come over here because there are fewer people and I can interact with both teams.”

Badenhop: “Really? That’s cool. What time do the gates open here?”

Me: “Well on weekdays, they open it up at 5, but they make us stay in left field. On Saturdays, they open at 4:30, so when they opened I stayed in left for a few minutes until I snuck up over here.”

Badenhop: “Nice. How long have you been a Pirates fan?”

Me: “Well I was born in 1992, and have not been alive for a winning season, need I say more? I have always been loyal to my Pirates.”

Badenhop and Webb (laughing): “Wow. Nice. Hey, aren’t the Steelers play here at one?”

Me: “Yeah, they play at one, but they are in Baltimore to play the Ravens.”

Badenhop: “Oh I see.”

Me: “Aren’t the Dolphins playing Monday Night Football at home against the Patriots?”

Badenhop (sighs): “Yeah, and then the Raiders and Broncos are playing the second game.”

Webb: “Are we going to be able to see either of those games?”

Badenhop: “Probably not. Aren’t the Jets playing Sunday night?”

Me: “Yeah, against the Cowboys.”

Badenhop (roll of the eyes and exaggerated tone): “Oh great. I am so tired of them.”

Me (laughing): “I feel the exact same way.”

Badenhop and Webb: “Well, it was great talking to you, we have to go run and warm up.”

Me: “Ok. Thanks for taking the time and talking with me.”

That was awesome. I never get a chance to talk to players like that, and by being the only one over there, I was able to get into a conversation. It definitely was a highlight to the season.

There were a couple of things that went on during the conversation. When Webb was talking to me, Badenhop was singing a song, and it did not sound that great. Also, a ball was hit as the Marlins pitchers were warming up and I was talking to Badenhop and Webb. “Look out,” I screamed to reliever Brian Sanches who looked to the cage and saw the ball in enough time to catch it. He definitely seemed to appreciate it and turned to me and threw me the ball as a thank you. The throw was not the best as it looked as though it was going to hit Badenhop who was not paying attention, so I turned my glove and reached over to protect him and make the catch. Badenhop seemed a little worried but I protected my new buddy and that was that. I was pleased to add ball number five on the day.

I knew that the Marlins were not going to hit any baseballs to right or center from Friday’s game, and thus I just stayed put as left was crowded.

My staying there was a great call as soon after, Todd and Tim Cook better known as Cook and Sons, came to the ballpark and we all had a great conversation. They are huge Seattle Mariners fans despite being from Reading, PA. I think it is very cool, and they got Mike Cameron to come over and take a picture and sign their baseball.

I got a picture with Cameron, who I long respected, and before we even posed, Cameron jokingly said, “chesse”. It lightened the mood and was quite funny.

The Cooks and I hung out during the rest of BP, where I ended up with zero baseballs. Tim was hilarious with all of the stories he had and seemed to be in a great mood.

I then got to talk to Manny Lopez who is a very important player in the PNC Park puzzle. Manny is in charge of the grounds crew. Us ballhawks have not been happy, as the tarp has gone onto the field a lot more than anyone would like it to, and often times when the tarp goes on, the rain stops and it never goes off until right before the game. This has cost us quite a few baseballs.

I decided to ask Manny about how he makes the decision to put the tarp on pre-game. Manny told me that he looks hard at what radar says and he looks outside to see what the conditions look like. He said though that he hates putting the tarp onto the field and with that little explanation, I thanked him and we parted ways.

After parting ways with the Cooks, who wanted to explore the ballpark, I went to my usual spot the bullpen, to try and see Jeff Locke warm up for his first big league start. I set up shop right behind the fence, just in case PNC Security came early. All of a sudden a Pittsburgh Police Officer told all of us that we had to move and when I nicely asked him why, he said it was so that people with wheelchairs could go through. What??!! That is a bit confusing considering that we left them enough room, and being by the bullpen was never an issue before. It was clear that the officer did not know the rule, but I was not going to argue with him for obvious reasons.

The officer not knowing the rule allowed me to go around the ballpark and do my usual exploring. I ran into a buddy and we caught up, and I made it to my seat in time for the game to begin.

During the game I caught up with Nick, and we chatted for a bit. All of a sudden Derrick Lee belted a foul ball that landed in section 131. I reacted quickest and was ready in case the ball rebounded to my section, as I had it perfectly read, but it never bounced and I ended up getting shutout for the little bit of the game I was there for.

I did not stay long as just moments after the D. Lee foul ball I felt unwell and after taking care of myself for a short while, I left to be on the safe side.

I clearly did not miss anything, as the Pirates lost 3-0 as Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez pitched a complete game one-hitter. The Pirates lone hit was a double from Neil Walker who celebrated his 26th birthday that day.

I am feeling fine now, but as a precaution, I will not be going to Monday’s Pirates game, meaning Tuesday is my next game. The Cardinals will be back in town and that should be interesting to say the least. I currently have 124 baseballs on the season, putting me only four away from the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the season. I also am seven baseballs away from 200 career, so it would be cool to reach that milestone soon as well.

Also next week is Season Ticket Holder Field Days. This is a way the Pirates thank their season ticket holders, by allowing them to come down to the ballpark and hit and field on the field. My time is 11-1 on Friday and I am very excited. I was sick for last years, so I was pretty much hitting blind, but between the hitting and throwing, I am rather excited. Should be a fun and busy week next week!

Pirates vs Florida Marlins 9/9/11

I went to this game by my lonesome, and was still definitely battling the cough, although I did have the upper hand. I did get this ticket from Point Park, which was cool.

I played catch with Ian Weir prior to going into the ballpark and on just the second throw, he dropped the ball and it went into the stadium. This mistake happened once before with Baseball Joe and Ian, so it was semi-funny to relive it. Of course it took the PNC people a while to get it because they were oblivious, but hey still got it, and just like last time, no it does not count.

As we went in, I noticed one of the ticket takers had a baseball. I respect my elders, and it looked like he has done a lot of service for the Pirates previously, so I approached him with a friendly attitude as my ticket was being scanned and nicely asked if he found that baseball today. It was a loaded question as I knew the answer, which he confirmed by saying yes. I shook my head in approval knowing that was not ok, and he added that it was for a nephew. Hey, that’s fine and I am not going to argue with you, but thanks for providing physical proof in my season ticket letter I plan on sending to the Pirates. I was not the only one that was there when this scene occurred, so I do have witnesses to back me up.

This brief conversation meant that there would be no easter eggs, and I was right. I was unable to snag anything during the Pirate portion of BP, which was longer than normal likely because of September call ups.

I was shutout heading into the 5:30 time slot and I saw balls being taken from right and centerfields, and I even saw a centerfield usher throwing them to others waiting by the fence. I decided then to change my strategy and head down the third base side knowing that there was potential for a couple baseballs to be there.

When 5:30 came I ran up there and Erik Jabs did as well. I was unable to find the baseballs and I was reluctant to retrace my steps in left, so I went to the first baseside, still not finding anything.

Finally a glimmer of hope came when a ball came down the line. I could have easily reached for it, but I could see that Marlins closer Leo Nunez was running for it, so I opted to peel off. This allowed for others in right including a couple of ballhawks to try asking him for a ball. I said my request to him in Spanish and under handed me the ball for ball number one on the day. I thanked him and he responded with a nod. While I have said many perfect requests in Spanish, this was the first time that it worked.

I then retreated to centerfield, where I tried my luck at another snag. I asked Clay Hensley and Burke Badenhop, who both patroled the area for a baseball and it took them a while, until Hensley tossed me up a nice one. I wanted to give it to a kid with a glove, but he said that he already had two. Well now I did too as that was my second ball on the day.

That was it for BP, although I tried for a dugout tossup.

I went by the bullpen and that was unsuccessful as well, although in the second inning, I talked to Evan Meek for a couple of minutes. It’s great that he still remembers me, one of his most loyal fans (although Tami Davis is his #1 fan, I may be third or fourth) and he told me he is feeling much better and then talked about life.

I then went to my Point Park section, but didn’t really mix it up with anyone besides a professor I had last year that I saw by the bullpen.

Sitting right behind me was a mother and father with a young child. I continued to mull it over and finally turned to them when the father suggested that his child should come in.

I told the child, “Hey if you are going to come in, then you might want to have a glove with you.”

The parents both laughed and I had the practice baseball that Ian and I threw with in my glove. I opened up the glove for them all to see and let him take the baseball out of it.

The child admired the baseball, and the parents said to the child, “That’s a real baseball.” They all then took turns holding it and I stayed a little while longer before I had to leave. I made sure to give the kid a high five before I left.

Knowing I was going to the Saturday game as well, I headed out and the Pirate game, it wasn’t even close. 13 runs and 20 hits were already put up by the Marlins before I even left. It was just one of those nights.

It is early Sunday morning as I type this and I will type the blog on last night’s game later today. Needless to say though, it was one of my favorite on the season.

Pirates vs Houston Astros 9/6 PNC Park

Rain rain go away come again another day! Yes, I had planned to go to Monday’s game, but a combination of terrible weather and an even worse cough sidelined me for the day. At this game, I still had the cough a little bit, but considering I was already down at Point Park, I figured I could go to this game.

Heading into this game, I was putting my streak of 50 straight games with a baseball on the line big time. I have put my streak to the test all kinds of times this season, but on paper me going to this game made no sense. With the rain this week there would be no BP and things looked bleak. In my mind though, I knew that I had snagged 115 baseballs on the season and need to get to 128 in any way possible. This was a possible way, and even better I tend to get the best results of the ballhawks that attend when it rains. Something about the rain always seems to work in my favor.

I had a bigger problem to navigate though. I had a little over an hour to avoid a shutout on a day where a shutout was almost a guarantee. I could get in at five, but I had to leave a few minutes after six to prepare for the first ever volleyball game on Point Park’s campus. I am the volleyball beat writer for the school paper, so I knew I needed to attend. This made a seemingly unlikely task turn into a seemingly impossible one.

So after my English 250 class, I put on my Pirates dugout jacket and made the short walk to PNC Park arriving around 4:30 to see Jim Saylor ducked for cover. The tarp was indeed on the field but again I had two free tickets waiting for me at will call, so what did I have to lose? I chatted with Jim and then got my spot as first in line. I did not have to worry about who all was lining up at the gate as I could count on one hand who all was in line (myself, Jim, Harold, Baseball Joe and Big Yellow who joined a few minutes after the gates opened). Big Yellow attended as I gave him my other free ticket.

I searched left field pretty good for easter eggs and did not see anything.

Erik and Nick were not to be found, and you can’t blame them. They are both quite frustrated by the grounds crew freaking out over earlier rain and not removing the tarp. We have lost BP way more than we should have this year, and it has made our totals lower than they should be. I likely would have been right at 128 baseballs right now if these BPs didn’t get called out.

Ballhawks in cities such as Baltimore have it quite easy compared to us as they have much more room to run and they actually have hitters who consistently hit it over the left field wall. Our best chance (at least from the two minutes we see) Matt Diaz was just sent to the Atlanta Braves, which means not much hope here.

With this rain, the Pirates never even came out. Big Yellow and I spent most of the time talking, and then the rain stopped. The useless (cough cough) I mean grounds crew then came out to remove the tarp to get field ready. The field looked more than ready and I was upset, but at least the Astros pitchers were coming out to stretch.

Still it was 5:25 so I took off my Pirates dugout jacket as the rain stopped in favor of a red Under Armour sweatshirt and then ran over and got the first spot by the stairs leading to the first base area. I knew there would be no easter eggs in the outfield, and I plotted my strategy and chose the stair area that I felt would get me there the fastest.

When 5:30 came, I ran up, and someone (an autograph seeker) tried to cut me off. It was not going to happen, and I kept running and he stumbled (unsure if he fell or not and I really don’t care) and I just kept going. Let that be a lesson, when I am in the zone, do not try to race me, you WILL lose everytime.

This got me first into the area and there were no easter eggs there. I immediately scouted the competition I had, and planned a strategy.

One thing I did not count on was Harold coming down, but I knew that he was not a threat by any means. This led to the funniest moment of the day. An Astro had an overthrow, which Harold could not reach before it went to a grounds crew member. Harold had a lot of separation and the grounds crew guy threw it to him, but the throw was a little short and he could not read it well. It rolled right into a kid’s glove and the look on Harold’s face was priceless. Needless to say, he did not get a baseball before the game.

Meanwhile, I kept switching my position to try and gauge things. While this happened, a couple of funny moments occurred.

The first occurred when Doug Brocail, the Astros Pitching Coach warned an elderly couple right in the front of the wheelchair section that the relievers could not catch, and as if on cue, they nearly got beaned.

The other funny moment was when Brocail crouched in the catcher’s stance and caught for David Carpenter. Carpenter soon uncorked a terrible throw, and Brocail looked at me and we both shrugged our shoulders and shook our heads.

The Astros then started to run and because I did not have time to look at my cheat sheet, I missed asking Wesley Wright for a toss up.

Bud Norris nearly left me too. I had asked him for the baseball, and he might not have heard me, so when he started walking towards the dugout, I was starting to run over there as well and for some reason out of the corner of his eye, he must have seen me running, because right before I was going to catapault myself over the wheelchair section he looked at me, I flashed my glove and I had ball number one. Crisis and shutout averted.

Things then got quiet for a couple of minutes as many of the relievers continued running. Joe “Stretch” Suba was pocketing baseballs, and I tried to call to him but he must not have heard me either and he walked away. Just as I started to think I would end up with one, I saw one more baseball inside a glove, Suba had missed one.

At first I thought that it belonged to Aneury Rodriguez, but I ended up having the wrong Rodriguez. It was Fernando Rodriguez and I knew he was from America so I could not ask him in Spanish. I would have one shot at this, and after he signed his third and final autograph, I asked him nicely for the ball, and he said sure and held his glove out. It was a cool experience reaching into his glove for ball number two.

That was all I would get, but considering the circumstances and time, two baseballs was like getting double digits.

I then saw Big Yellow and knowing I had to leave bade him farewell. While the attendance was listed close to 10,000 it looked like a twister had hit the place and maybe 250 people were there, but perhaps I am exaggerating.

Assuming I am feeling well, my next game is Friday against the Florida Marlins. Should be interesting, that’s for sure.

My homestand schedule

I sit here at 115 baseballs snagged on the season, and need only 13 more baseballs to pass my goal. It took until the last day of the season to get to 64 total last year, and I do not want it to come to that this season. I definitely want to surpass this goal I have set by as much as possible. With that in mind, here is my schedule for this upcoming homestand.

Games I will attend:
Monday vs Astros- The Astros are not a great BP hitting team, but with it being Labor Day and me being unable to make Thursday’s game against the Dodgers due to classes, I feel that I owe it to myself to be at this game. I do not expect to snag many because of the Pirates ending BP as soon as we come in, and with Hunter Pence gone, only Carlos Lee has the BP power we need. Jose Otulve (I think I said that correctly) may have some BP power, but we shall see. The Astros also are not friendly when it comes to toss ups. There very well may not be BP though, as it is a day game and furthermore there is rain all over the forecast, and you know what that means to the sensative PNC Park grounds crew.

Tuesday vs Astros- I will have a ticket for this game, but I will only stay thru BP. I have an event I need to cover at Point Park and I want to get there by 6:30. So I am hoping to tack on a couple more snags on this day just for numbers sake.

Friday vs Marlins- I am skipping Wednesday’s game as I have my radio show from 4-6 and then have a class immediately after that. Thursday is an off-day so I will be back for this game on Friday. I definitely am looking forward to it. Mike Stanton can absolutely hit the cover off of the ball, and Hanley Ramirez can take BP off sometimes, but it should be interesting. The team is also historically friendly with tossups, so this could be a good day.

Saturday vs Marlins- See Friday. Could be a very good day, and I tend to do well on Saturdays.

Monday vs Cardinals- Taking off Sunday, and Monday could be a bear of a day. The Cardinals are not friendly with toss ups, but Mondays usually are not crowded, and that means I could perhaps catch a Pujols or Holliday bomb.

Tuesday vs Cardinals- Tuesday could also be interesting, but Jason Motte seems to control toss ups for the Cardinals, and he never tosses it up anymore, so could be another long day.

Wednesday vs Cardinals- There may not even be BP on this day, but it could be my best day of the series. Being that it is an afternoon game, there will be less people than usual, and Cardinals pitchers may be more willing to do toss ups. We shall see.

Overview: Overall, I am planning on attending seven of the nine home games. After this is the final series of the year against the Reds and that is all she wrote for the home schedule. I will have to have a great homestand, and it could be my last call for money going to charity.

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