May 2012

Miami Marlins at Cleveland Indians 5/18 Progressive Field

Well this entry would have been much nicer but my camera is lost and there appears to be no way of tracking it. Pictures will not be nearly what they should. This will be an indepth post, so I will upload later. I went to try and get a Marlins commemorative baseball.

I met Erik and together we picked up Nick and were off to Progressive Field. I was excited as this was my first trip ballhawking and knew it would be a blast.

We made a couple of pit stops where I blew nearly all of the money I brought on the trip. Whoops. Oh well, at least I had an awesome Dairy Queen blizzard before getting to Progressive Field.

This is the part where any of the 150 camera shots I took would have come in handy. It was awesome seeing the ballpark and I was clicking my camera left and right.

Mind you I was not feeling my best and earlier in the week got sick for the first time all year. I still was okay enough to go but my throwing by the Bob Fellar statue was erratic and I knew it could be a long day.

I had no idea what to expect, so when Erik told me he expected 10 baseballs from me, even I said, “geez slow down. I have no idea what to expect”. It was the truth, I had never been in the ballpark so I did not know my way around.

The gates opened after the wait, and of course I found no easter eggs.

Pittsburgh was well represented at this game, as in addition to Erik, Nick and myself, ballhawks Rick and Hunter made the trip as well. By the way I guess as a footnote, Rick and I have talked our differences out, and as he said on his blog have “kissed and made up”. We understand where the other is coming from and he generously said on his blog that he would help me out with my charity initiative, which is a very kind gesture. I am glad I reached out to him and was glad that he returned the favor. I am glad that there are no hard feelings, and that we can move on.

Back to being at Progressive. I was just excited to be there although I quickly realized there was a lot more room to run.

Initially, nothing was being tossed up. I decided to gauge the situation and pretty much try to figure things out. As I did, I saw Chris Perez coming to the centerfield wall to retrieve a baseball. From what I have heard, he was great for toss ups. I received some advice on Perez and used it when he approached the wall.

“Chris, could I please have that baseball,” I asked.

Chris then looked up to see who made the request and just like that, ball #1 came my way. I was disappointed that it did not have the BP [gas station] logo on it or I would have been able to get a gas card, but still a ball was a ball and I was happy for that.

It took a while for ball number two to come, but towards the end of Indians BP, reliever Nick Hagadone retrieved a ball. There were people in the front row asking for the ball and I randomly just held my glove up several rows back. It was almost an apologetic gesture but I knew in a row of fans, being way back by myself made me stand out. Hagadone’s throw was not too great, but I got to the ball first. Another regular baseball for ball #2.

That would be it for me with Indians BP.

The Marlins began throwing and I changed into my Marlins gear and knew that operation try to get a Marlins commemorative would be in effect.

When most of the Marlins finished throwing, I tried to get a toss up. It did not work out until about a minute later when Marlins reliever Steve Cishek came to the wall. I asked him nicely for a toss up and got one. Another standard ball. Dang. Oh well, still ball #3.

When the ballpark opened up, I made my way to where a couple of Marlins were still throwing. Erik was on the same mission, but it did not work out for him and I guess he left.

The last two throwing were pitcher Anibal Sanchez and bullpen catcher Jeff Urgelles. If my memory serves me correctly, Sanchez would start the next day and thus was getting in some extra work.

As their session was coming a close, they drew closer. A Sanchez toss slowly rolled past Urgelles’ glove and into mine. Upon quick inspection it was ball #4, but again no commemorative.

I quickly hid this ball and neither saw this. I then quickly called Jeff over and I think he was surprised. I asked him if he had any Marlins commemoratives (this took a few tries since my voice was shot) in the bag they used to throw. Upon inspection and a little digging, Urgelles found the only ball in that bag with one and tossed it my way. Ball #5 and success! I was so pleased.

While I did not snag any other baseballs, I was still pleased.

I ran back into centerfield and got in position for the Progressive t-shirt toss. I got three shirts and tossed two of them to the fans. I was told they were Shin Soo Choo t-shirt jerseys but these shirts were “Peace, Baseball, Indians” with a mediocre design. Oh well, still a cool extra snag.

With BP over, Nick, Erik, Amy, Olivia and I all met up before Nick and I hung out and the other three went to the kids play area for Olivia.

I bought an Indians Media Guide, something I really wanted. I was bummed out that they did not have the spiral bounded ones. I am spoiled with those, but in all seriousness, they are so much easier to read. As a note, the guide was $10, $2 less than the Pirates media guide. I thought the price was very fair and have already skimmed through it and enjoyed it.

Then it was off to the bullpen where I was determined to help Nick get a Marlins commemorative.

Very quickly it became clear that much like with me, Urgelles would be Nick’s best case to get one.

At first it did not look too good as Urgelles confused Nick for me. He pleased for me to fix the misunderstanding which I did. Jeff looked in the same bag he looked for me and did not find one. He then went to the other part of the visitor’s bullpen where he found one.

The first toss was one Nick wants to forget, while the second was short. The third one was a charm and with a big assist from me, Nick got his Marlins Park commemorative and both of us were extremely happy. We have been helping each other this season and I was a big help to him all day and he returned the favor on a couple of occasions as well on the trip.

We left Progressive Field shortly after. Despite getting further sick and extremely tired on the trip back, and of course losing my camera, the trip was a great one.

I will definitely come to Progressive Field at least once or twice more assuming everything works out like I plan.

While some of the surrounding area was not too great, the ballpark is much easier for ballhawks. There is much more room and more of the ballpark open than PNC Park. The bummer is that during Indians BP all you can hope for is help from Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner. Hafner is now on the DL for a while and Santana has been a bit banged up as well, and that is not great. Hopefully Johnny Damon and others can pick up Hafner’s slack.

I am excited to go back and maybe I will buy a camera for this trip so I can actually upload some solid pics.

Wow, really?

I will preface this by saying that I apologize in advance for this post. This blog is supposed to be about the Pirates and my charity initiative, however this post has to be made and I speak for all of the true Pittsburgh ballhawks as I type this post, because this is how we all feel.

There is one and possibly a second person that are completely ruining the PNC Park experience with their negative attitude, empty promises, threats and frankly stupidity. I have lost complete respect for this person, so heck I’ll name the person, Rick Sporcic.

Rick is everything that a ballhawk should not be. He lies about his statistics just to make himself feel better which includes counting soccer balls instead of baseballs. Yes one of your friends actually told me this, and it is not cool. Among his goals are to snag “500 baseballs” (and the list goes on) and it is actually hilarious since he maybe gets two baseballs a game. Yes this is a far cry from the 113 that he claims on snagging this season, something everyone knows is not true.

Sporcic is also one of the indirect reasons that his idol Zack Hample no longer uses a big glove. Others have copied it, and the way Sporcic uses it is insulting, and he cannot even catch with it.

His threats to knock over people also are uncalled for and are against not only ballhawking rules but PNC Park rules as well. His refusal to give baseballs to others is also for personal gain so he can “sell the balls on Ebay to fund future road trips”. Ugh whatever…

The worst part is that he calls my charity “questionable” and says that I wear a “skirt”. I do agree that I at times can rely heavily on toss ups, but you do as well, especially your daily Jason Grilli toss up.

I could care less that you are questioning me, but by doing so, you are insulting children who have various kinds of disabilities. In Kindergarten, I went there because I was behind on my motor skills and my time there helped me become a better person. I am appreciative of the help they provided me and this is the best way that I can give back. Every dollar helps out these wonderful children.

If you do not believe me, why don’t you call The Children’s Institute? They will gladly discuss the $388 that I raised last year. I will be making my first visit up there next week to bring some money over that I have obtained this year.

Still no, well here are some links you should check out:

How about from the site that you use to log baseballs? : – The official Facebook page for the charity.

I also will be in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review in the near future.

Also have to mention that many people have told me they have received letters of thanks from The Children’s Institute themselves. Nothing fake about that, right?

So instead of you and your friend trying to rip me for the various tactics I and others use and actually learn a thing or two and actually try to “become friends with everyone” like you “wanted”. Please stop making fun at everyone and focus on yourself. If you continue to threaten people then I will be forced to do something that I really do not want to do. Not a threat at all, just do what you are supposed to do and stop acting out.

Oh more proof?

One of the checks I presented last year.

In closing, I love how out of all of the PNC Park ballhawks you chose to target me. That’s fine, I have a lot of connections that go very high up and if anything happens to me, then I do one thing and you are done.

Time to stop talking and do what you are supposed to do and no that is not insulting children.

Oh and thanks for calling me Rocky. Just start worrying about youself. Gonna fly now.

Pirates vs Houston Astros 5/12 PNC Park

I was only to make one of the three Astros game which truly disappointed me. I really wanted to try and get one of their commemorative baseballs. I would only have one day to do this as I had to teach tennis Friday, and Sunday my parents completely manipulated me and thus I could not go.

Saturday was a disappointment in its own right as well as I had to tooth and nail just to get to my average.

I started out by throwing on the bridge and my arm was the best it was all season. I was throwing halfway across the bridge with pop and I was pleased with how the session went.

I hoped that this positive energy would help me in the ballpark, but of course things did not turn out the way that I had hoped.

I started in left field and of course the ushers were sitting there meaning all of the balls were pocketed… again. It didn’t hurt trying to look anyways, although when I prepared to go up into the second deck someone said, “they’re all gone man. They were pocketed.”

I stayed in left for a few more minutes as Chris Leroux was in left field so we shook hands and talked. Unfortunately he was in the usual relief crowd of people in left center and I decided it was not worth it.

I was headed for the first base side, until I saw Kevin Correia with a ball. A ballhawk called for it and just for the heck of it, I threw up my glove. He ended up throwing it to me for ball #1. That has happened to me so many times where I will call a player’s name and he will throw someone else the ball, so it was nice that I was the beneficiary for a change.

I kept the good vibes going when I got on the first base side. I saw Jared Hughes with two baseballs and I sprinted to get there in time and I ended up getting there just in time.

“Hey do you want one,” He asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

Ball #2. Thanks Jared! This ball was later given away when I thought I lost my Joel Hanrahan bobblehead and a family graciously gave it back to me. The ball went to their youngest child.

The Pirates unfortutely did not have anything else that went my way during BP.

The Astros came out (thank goodness) and started throwing. Reliever Rhiner Cruz and starter Wandy Rodriguez were throwing and Cruz’s toss rolled slightly past Rodriguez and into my glove. I quickly inspected it to see if it was a commemorative. It was not but regardless, I would have thrown them back the ball. While I never got the toss up back (weird), I count the ball.

Something similar happened for ball #4. An Astros reliever had a bouncer that fellow reliever Wilton Lopez couldn’t quite handle and it went straight into my glove. Unfortunately, it was not a commemorative (Astros did not have any in their bag) and again another toss back. The ball was never given back to me, but that’s okay.

That was it for all of BP. Astros BP generally stunk so I just stayed over at first base and tried to get a toss up at the end, which did not work out.

I then went to my spot in the bullpen where bullpen coach Euclides Rojas warmed up catcher Michael McKenry and afterwards looked at me and tossed me ball #5. I gave this to a young kid standing close to me. The child’s mother was very grateful.

The good vibes spread to the Pirates who would win this game after a disappointing 1-0 loss the previous day.

Here are some photos from the game:

Pirates Charities event that occured before the ballgame

It was Joel Hanrahan Bobblehead Night at the ballpark. This is the only bobblehead of the season.

Astros catcher Chris Snyder makes his return to PNC Park.

Astros pitcher J.A. Happ warms up.

Charlie Morton warming up for the Pirates.

Person playing Baseball Quiz won a signed game used Joel Hanrahan jersey.

Pirates vs Washington Nationals 5/8- 5/10/12 PNC Park

This really could have been the series that was, but it ended up being the series that was not, although for once it was not my fault. More on that later.

Starting off with May 8, I was very excited, I had started work at The Pittsburgh Fan that day and had my internship with Pittsburgh Sports Report start the day before. I am pleased with both as they are great resume makers and mix my love for sports with journalism, which in the long run will help me reach the goals that I have set for myself in the real world.

I took this excitement which coupled with my back being pretty close to normal to the Clemente Bridge when work ended at 4 PM for me. I was excited to be able to throw with full motion for the first time since almost 10 days before when I threw a side session with my friend Colston on Lind Field in Kennedy Township.

It was raining when we threw but we did not make much of it as radar said that it would pass. I did not even rush to get my coat and kept throwing.

I was excited to get into PNC Park for BP, except I saw the tarp go out on the field right as our throwing session. Are you kidding me? Whether it was the head of the grounds crew Manny Lopez or PNC Park Operations, I did not support this decision and they made a hasty decision.

So we went in to find that there were no Easter Eggs. To make things even worse, the rain was a drizzle by the time.

Unfortunately, this is not Cleveland and thus any chance of BP was over. Honestly if the grounds crew is reading this now, I will keep it nice and say that if you did not place the tarp on the field, you would not have had to water the field at all, it would have been all taken care of. Most of you were quite grumpy this week, be patient and let it ride especially since luck has not been on your side regarding tarping the field for BP.

Of course 5-10 minutes after us season ticket holders got in, the Nationals pitchers threw and the first base ushers pocketed all of the balls so we got nothing out of that. Oh and to the ushers, we are watching, so do not act like you did not pick the baseballs up. I was told by PNC Park Operations that if a baseball is pocketed that it must be given to a child or fan. Out of respect I will leave it that I was told that disciplinary actions would be taken for ushers who do not respect this rule.

Anyways, the Nationals outfielders were joined by Third Base Coach Bo Porter who showed the outfielders how to handle the bounces off of various parts of the PNC Park wall. Porter tried tossing me the ball, but overshot me and it was snagged by another ballhawk. Apparently there is a rule among ballhawks that if a ball is overthrown then the person that the ball was intended for should be able to go and get the ball. I guess not, so come 5:30 I was understandably ticked.

With a shutout definitely a strong possibility and the Nationals off of the field, I figured it was worth a try to talk to a familiar face in former Pirates Coach Trent Jewett who now coaches for the Nationals.

I needed to extend my streak so when Jewett was done talking to Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass, I politely waited for him to sign an autograph and asked if there was a chance to get a baseball.

“I don’t think any around,” he said. “Sorry… oh wait I see one here. Hold on a second.”

A very short while later he popped back up and tossed me ball #1. Relief.

I then decided to head to the bullpen and watch A.J. Burnett and Edwin Jackson warm up.

Before the pitchers warmed up, I received a nice little gift from Herbie Andrade. He came out of his usual tunnel with a baseball which was a surprise. It is a part of his routine to get in the bullpen around 6:30 but he usually does not bring out a baseball. I was caught off guard and was talking to someone and holding a very larged sized water in my non-glove hand.

After he caught up with another former Pirate coach and now Bullpen Coach Jim Lett, he came in with the baseball, said his usual hello and tossed up baseball number two catching me by total surprise.

As for the game, I was able to stay today as a buddy of mine Andy Conte who was a professor I had last semester, helped me get published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, made me a better writer and so much more was willing to give me a ride back home. I sat with him and was relatively close to the action. I was pleased that the Pirates were able to shut down Bryce Harper and the Nationals offense.

Despite the small crowd, it was definitely a festive atmosphere and when Rod Barajas got his first home run, a walk off giving the Pirates the win I went crazy. Andy was with three buddies from the Tribune-Review and we all were high fiving and jumping up and down like crazy. It was awesome and I don’t ever remember being that excited about a walkoff either.

As a final picture for that game, here are Andy and myself.

I would like to say that the next day was better, alas it was nearly a carbon copy of the previous day. Erik and I threw a few minutes after four and of course it rained for 25 minutes. It was not a strong rain and of course it stopped right before us season ticket holders were to enter the ballpark.

Manny Lopez of course made the decision to tarp the field, so the exact same procedure as yesterday happened. Grounds crew has to remove the tarp right after they put it on, the Nationals threw and 4-5 more baseballs were pocketed by ushers and things were bleak.

Not to sound like Passover, but what made this game different from the previous game? There were signs of life from the Pirates as six players came out to throw.

Joel Hanrahan turned to the fans after his session and saw me and after our connection at Bowling With the Bucs, he gave me a throw. It was an overthrow but I snagged it for ball one without the need to jump. I was pleased as any chance of a shutout was gone early.

That was it, although I stayed for the entire game once again.

No pictures for this game as I was running late, forgot my camera and nearly arrived late to work.

I was able to get ball #2 from Herbie Andrade who helped me out again after Joel Hanrahan warmed up for the ninth inning. Thanks Herbie!

Joel had an emotional night having lost his grandmother. He would be placed on the bereavement list after the game and not return until Sunday. He did get the save and pointed to the heavens soluting his mothers.

I stayed after the game as the grounds crew cleaned up the bullpens. I did that as there was a ball by the bullpen. I saw a “ballhawk” trying to get it, but knowing that his catching ability was suspect, I stood there. This “ballhawk” keeps his baseballs, and there were a couple of guys that were to get the ball, and I wanted to make sure the ball would go to the right person and not used as Ebay bait to fund road trips.

The grounds crew member made a bad throw and it was going to be a scrum between myself and the “ballhawk”. I ended up with it and made sure to give it right over to the guy asking for it. He had two or three friends with them and they all shook my hand, patted me on the back, thanked me and wished me a good night before parting ways.

The last game marked the return of my camera. I did not want to forget it this time, Stephen Strasburg was starting and to boot Kevin Correia guaranteed that he would hit a home run against him (he ended up going 0-2 with two strikeouts).

Also great news was the fact that there was batting practice and there was no rain in sight. All I have to say is, it’s about time because if the grounds crew messed me up again, I would have been so upset.

I did another throwing session and have been working on a sidearmed throw which I think is going well.

Upon entering the ballpark, I saw the left field ushers sitting down and I know immediately what that meant. The balls were pocketed and it has turned into last year all over again.

Despite threats to “badly injure me” and the false idea that my charity initiative was “fake” (more on this in a future post), I came away with a nice haul.

Ball 1: It took a while to get on the board but my buddy Jason Grilli hooked me up and got my day started off in the right direction.

Ball 2: I was spotted by Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas and he threw me a perfect ball.

Ball 3: Jose Tabata was fielding baseballs in the outfield for a drill and a ball was hit right by the left field foul pole. My Spanish was quick enough to get the baseball.

I will take a break in the action to say that from here my buddy Mark Strittmatter came into left field. I could not have been any more excited. I pumped my fist and went over by where he was.

Immediately Strittmatter and I made eye contact, waved and smiled at each other and I knew he would help me out once again.

Surprisingly, quite a few baseballs went his way and he gave me every other toss up or at least one of every three. This allowed me to get balls 4, 5 and 6. Yes some of you may view this as cheap, and I understand, but when you are raising money for charity, this goes a long way and of course they all count.

That was it for the Pirates portion of BP and the Nationals prepared to hit.

I saw that the Nationals were in Los Angeles last week, and my buddy Nick got a Dodgers 50th anniversary commemorative baseball from the Nationals on Tuesday, so my goal was to hopefully snag one of those.

I had rotten luck in left field as former Pirates Xavier Nady would not throw anything into the crowd.

I looked in centerfield for baseballs at 5:30 but they were pocketed by either the ushers, or a fan who happens to get in early at each game and gets to sit in her seat.

Of course, I had Henry Rodriguez all lined up to throw me a ball, but he had other ideas and I just missed a BP home run.

The chances for double digits were running thin, so I had to act fast.

After a narrow miss of a high bouncer and a playful groan from Nady, reliever Ryan Perry fielded the ball and did a no look and over the shoulder toss to me. I had to catch it barehanded which I did for ball 7. I took one look and sighed, still no commemorative. I just ended up giving it to an usher to give to a kid.

I then decided to move to left field where Roger Bernadina was. I was unable to get him to toss me one, but I wanted to try for a few minutes more before I moved to the dugout to try and get one.

A right handed batter gave me ball #8, as he hit a ball that went in the small area at left field. I thought I saw something bizarre about the ball and no one else seemed to be going after it. I charged at it right away despite it being locked. I stepped over it, picked it up, and found this:

Mission accomplished!

It was the commemorative I had wanted! I said in a whisper to no one in particular, “that was a commemorative.” I am so glad I didn’t pinch my nerve on this one like I did for the Angels baseball last year.

A couple of minutes later, Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus gave me a nice toss for ball #9. No commemorative there, so I gave it to another usher to give to a kid.

I then went over to the Nationals dugout where I kept my glove up and got rewarded as some random coach threw me ball #10 placing me in double digits once more. Even better, it was another commemorative.

With BP over, I went over to the bullpen and watched the game.

The Pirates were looking good but Correia had a rough inning giving up three runs and ultimately that was enough for the Nationals to get the win.

Meanwhile I got robbed twice during the game. Both Nationals home runs went into the bullpen area. For the first, Daniel McCutchen did an over the shoulder toss that was intended for me, but out of nowhere, a fan snagged it and passed a point they were not supposed to. Then he stayed and wouldn’t shut up. So much for the ball being intended for me, fans never will stop being obnoxious.

Former Pirate Sean Burnett heard my call for the second ball, but his throw was terribly off and landed in an area that fans were not allowed to go into. Wow I was not pleased.

Meanwhile, Strasburg struck out 13 Pirates and looked dominant.

Again the Pirates lost and missed out on a chance to sweep. At least I snagged a free hot dog Tuesday that I got to redeem for a fresh one on Thursday.

Also, former Steeler Hines Ward threw out the first pitch to the game.

Thursday was not a bad day by any means, but the no BP really hurt me on Tuesday and Wednesday. I would face more disappointment during the weekend series against the Astros, but more on that another time.

Bowling With the Bucs 2012

I will start this entry off by saying that I missed this event so much last year after participating in 2009 and 2010. Despite the high cost, Bowling With the Bucs benefits various charities and is worth every penny. Why don’t I let this pictures do the talking, and then I will come back with comments.

Myself with Pirates bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade. He has been so great to me and I specifically wanted my picture with him first. He was in the lane next to mine for the second straight time which made me extremely happy.

Pirates starter Kevin Correia was in the other lane next to me. He was cracking jokes all night. He guaranteed a home run in his next start which was this past Thursday vs Stephen Strasburg. He ended up going 0-2 with two strikeouts. Oh well.

I wanted this picture so badly in 2008, so I was really excited when four years later, I could get this pic with fellow lefty Nate McLouth.

Here I am with Chris Resop, one of the two Pirates that chaired this event. Glad to see that smile on his face.

The next image was the one you saw in my last entry with Mark Strittmatter. Here I am with Andrew McCutchen. Yes, I am close to blinking but I had to get my picture with him since I did not get one yet.

Well I choked those last frame and lost game one by seven pins.

Who does not love J Hay? This guy is the underdog and a fan favorite. I love how he seemed so excited to be at the event. When he hit the walkoff on Mother’s Day, I was so happy for him.

Garrett was in my lane, which really pleased me.

With this picture of former Pirate John Wehner, I now have a picture with all of the current Pirate broadcasters.

I am with reliever Juan Cruz who was a great non-roster invitee and has only been scored upon once this season.

Posing with infielder Casey McGehee.

Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas has been nice to me since he kept seeing me early last season. Lately in addition to our hellos, he said that he was glad to see me. I told him as well as Herbie about my charity initiative and they have been even more helpful. I don’t know what I would do without them.

Posing with Pirates reliever Jared Hughes.

Here with reliever and buddy Jason Grilli. We had a nice convo during the offseason and he interacts a lot with the fans on Twitter. Definitely someone to get to know. Infectious personality.

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, the other of the two chairs of the department along with Chris and Joel’s wives Kara and Kim. Joel surprised me when he knew my name and then said that, “I was everywhere”. That was pretty awesome if you ask me.

Yes my strained back was still 75-80% but still not please with my second game. I still won the lane though and beat Garrett Jones which is still cool.

All in all Bowling With the Bucs 2012 was great. It was worth every penny which is hard to do since I paid $137.50. I would recommend this event but not if you just want to bowl. I only bowled two games, so if you are going to meet/interact with players and fans and are willing to help out charity, then this event is for you. This event offers more access to the players than a PirateFest does. This also offers you access to almost all of the team, something you may get with only a couple or so players as a season ticket holder.

The Pirates off the top of my head that were not present were hitting coach Gregg Ritchie, pitchers A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, catchers Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry and outfielders Yamaico Navarro and Jose Tabata.

Root Sports here in Pittsburgh will have a special for Bowling With the Bucs this coming Thursday at 6 PM Eastern Time. I know I said a couple of small things on there and filmed a less than stellar shot of mine so there is a chance I will make it on.

Finally, a couple of buddies and fellow season ticket holders sit in section 134 of PNC Park and write a blog. They interviewed me in a blog post entitled ‘Bowling with the Bucs’ a Success for Weiss, Fans.

Here is the link to a post, which includes more info on Kevin Correia’s home run guarantee, my charity iniative and how to follow me on various social media networks:

May 5/6 Pirates vs Cincinnati Reds PNC Park

I missed the May 4 game vs the Reds because I was teaching tennis and also because of my strained back. I knew I would need to rest and make a tough decision the next day.

I woke up feeling about 75-80% in my back and knew it was going to be a very tough decision. I mulled it over for a couple or so hours and then took a run up and down my small street. I experienced no problems and thought that despite the risks, that I would go to the game May 5.

I waited much longer than normal to board the bus in order to give my back some much needed rest.

I figured I decided to give myself a different luck and thus wore high socks today. I meant business and I knew that I was going to have to go easy instead of further aggrevate my back. Any further damage could shut me down for an extended time.

I arrived about 15 minutes before the gate opened and asked Erik Jabs for a few throws to make sure my glove was ready. I knew I could not throw in any of my normal motions, and thus threw kind of like a stiff catcher. I just did not have any true way to throw. My glovework though was pretty good, which made me happy.

When the Clemente Gate opened, I ran and didn’t find any Easter Eggs, so I then had to go over to the first base line and stay there and just stand so that my back would be safe. If I ballhawked in the outfield and turned too sharply it could have seriously hurt my back.

There were no Easter Eggs over there either.

About five minutes later, a ball came over and out of sight. An usher disappeared and pocketed it. I did not want him to throw me it as I knew that Tony Watson would see it and despite my hesitation, I just sighed and held the glove up. It counts as ball #1 though, because it is a PNC Park employee that threw me the ball.

Things quieted down though, as Watson would immediately throw any other grounder back to the bat boy.

Then I saw my buddy reliever Chris Leroux who was talking to Watson. I really wanted to talk to him and was going to talk to him until I saw him walking over surprisingly to me.

“Hey Zac how are you,” he asked.

“Doing well Chris, how are you,” I replied.

From there we talked for about 10 minutes and just caught up. Chris has been on the DL and is currently rehabbing in Bradenton, Florida. He asked me how school was going and if I was done and I got an update on his progress and an update on his car situation which was fun. I also got to tell him about my charity operation and he said he would do what he could to help out.

At this point, a mother and daughter were over as well which was fine. The mother took a couple of pictures of myself and Chris and then Chris went back to his spot.

Thanks for all of the help and support Chris!

Soon after the baseballs just started rolling in, I mean literally rolling in. Leroux was not well enough to throw many of the balls, so he would roll them.

Within a 10 minute period, I got baseballs two, three, four, and five on the day via the roll from Chris. Don’t worry the mother and daughter got some baseballs as well.

I would have had ball number six, but the roll stopped short. I sighed figuring that meant that I had missed out on that ball. At that point Coach Mark Strittmatter was in right field with Chris as Watson has shifted more towards centerfield.

Apparently Chris told “Stritty” about my charitable operations.

Mark came over to get the ball and I was worried, because he always will throw the baseballs back over, however he told me something I didn’t expect.

I started off the conversation by saying, “Stritty, I miss seeing you in the bullpen. Why aren’t you over there any more?”

“I know, they don’t have me over there anymore. I was over there to help out [Mike] McKenry and now they don’t have me back there anymore,” he said.

He then continued, “Now, Chris told me about what you do for charity, so I will ask you a question and if you get it right, then you get the ball. Sounds fair right?”

I agreed and then waited for the question.

“How many outs are there in an inning,” he asked.

“Six,” I replied.

Baseball number six.

A couple of minutes later, he fielded a baseball and came back over.

“How many months have 28 days,” he asked.

“All of them,” I quickly replied again.

“****,” he replied before realizing the child was still there and saying shoot instead and apologizing.

Ball number seven.

Five minutes later he fielded another one.

“America celebrates the Fourth of July, and it is a big holiday and always a lot of fun. Does the Dominican Republic have a fourth of July,” he asked.

“Yes,” I said in a questioning voice.

Ball number eight.

“Geez, you’re good,” he said before the Reds took their spots. That was the end of that fun.

Thanks for everything Mark!

The Reds were throwing and I had left my bag with someone to avoid heavy lifting, as per doctor’s orders.

About five minutes later an overthrow came and reached the seats. I gloved the ball for ball number nine. I knew that I was so close to getting double digits as well, and to think I almost skipped this game.

“Could we please have the ball back? I’ll throw it back to you when we are done,” Reds outfielder Chris Heisey said.

Having had this before, I threw it back right away, but was not pleased with the throw and apologized. He said it was good.

After a few more throws, Heisey thanked me and threw the ball back. Since it was the same ball, it will only count once so I was still at nine balls, although I credited Heisey with the toss because I forgot who his throwing partner was, and I recognized him.

After that, I ran over to watch reliever Sam LeCure finish throwing. He was going to to toss it back in but then pocketed it. I asked him for the ball and he replied sure. I somehow contained my emotions as ball number 10 came my way. I was so excited to finally get my double digits that should have happened a while ago.

Nick Pelescak’s brother Bryan told me last home stand, “you will get double digits sooner than later”. Little did I know it would be this game where I was battling an injury.

I was not done though, as I lowered my socks and kept going.

Ball number 11 came from Aroldis Chapman. It was meant for a girl, but it bounced and she would not have caught it so I played the bounce right, caught it, and gave it to her. I just wanted to make sure that she got the ball and both her and her father were very happy.

Ball 12 also came from Chapman. I asked him in Spanish and he tossed it up right away. Everyone around me was so surprised and how fast I said it, how fast the ball was tossed to me and how I apparently sounded Spanish. Everyone around me tried repeating what I said for the next five minutes, which was amusing. I tried to help them out but it was to no avail.

Close to the end of BP, I tried my luck at the dugout in hopes of a baseball from Reds first base coach Billy Hatcher who always throws baseballs up after BP. Unfortunately, he was not in charge of the bag and only had a few, so I missed out.

After BP, I had to leave to cover the Pittsburgh Power game, so I was very pleased with 10 especially given the circumstances surrounding my back and called it a day at PNC Park.

10 of the 12 baseballs. The other two were given away.

The next day I was back at PNC Park and my back was about five percent better.

I was hoping for some Pirates BP, but early that morning, I got a text from a Pirates worker that the Pirates would be doing BP in the indoor cages and with gates opening at 11:30 would not have to show up until 10:30.

I crossed the Clemente Bridge and saw no cage up and immediately that here we go again feeling went through my head.

I will be honest when I say that I went in, saw the cages up and screamed and whooped it up like a school girl. It was hilarious.

The Reds would be hitting, although we would be stuck along the riverwalk until noon.

When noon did come, I went to the third base side and found three baseballs in the lower section closest to left field. Balls number 1, 2 and 3.

The Reds did not help me out at all during BP although I was close to a scrum in the second deck of left field. Oh well, at least I got ball #4 from a Reds ball boy.

The Pirates won the game Saturday but Sunday’s game dragged on and took seemingly forever and the Pirates lost it to boot.

As a final image, here is what happened when Joey Votto signed my shirt. I unfortunately did not have any baseballs at the time he signed😦

Oh wait I lied, one more and this is the last image, I promise. Aroldis Chapman was throwing absolute gas Sunday.

Yes that is 99 miles per hour. He hit that twice in this game.

Pirates vs St. Louis Cardinals 4/20-4/22 PNC Park

Well I tried to post the first Cardinals game once before, but things timed out on me, so I just decided to do a brief recap on each of the games in this series.

Unfortunately my computer was not on its best behavior, so pictures will be uploaded later.

Friday April 20th:

Wow a Friday April game, what are the odds? With Nick in Mexico, this was my chance to show that I am a force and that PNC Park is becoming my neck of the woods.

Here is a running total on what I snagged:

1. Easter egg found in Bleacher GA Section.

2. Toss up LF by Pirates Bullpen Catcher Heberto Andrade

3. Toss up LF from long distance by Cardinals coach John Mabry.

4. Toss up Victor Marte. Asked for in Spanish. Someone tried to make fun of the Spanish and when I snagged the bal he tried to threaten me. I laughed and kept walking.

5. Easter egg in CF and the most scuffed up baseball I have ever snagged.

6. Hit ball I got in CF right after the Easter Egg.

7. A toss up from Adam Wainwright. Jose Oquendo the third base coach was blocking Wainwright’s side so I was hoping to get his attention but him and Wainwright both had to field balls at the same time. Wainwright first heard the right field fans, but none of them satisfied him because they didn’t have Cardinals stuff on. Worked out for me in the end.

8. Toss up Chris Maloney the first base coach by the Cardinals dugout after BP.

Misplayed a couple of others or else I would have had double digits for the first time. Still eight was great and the snagging high of the day.

The Pirates lost the game 4-1 and the offense again appeared anemic.

Saturday April 21:

It rained hard all day it was cold to add to it all. I was at the Point Park Softball games earlier that day and it was cold and rainy and I then went to this game. I knew my streak was in jeopardy and that was confirmed with BP being cancelled. Here was how I did.

1. Toss up J.C. Romero. Romero saw my gear and also when his throwing partner Victor Marte nearly threw one into the seat. I was half going for the ball but also saw Romero had a chance to topple over and I helped support him.

2. Toss up Dyar Miller. He was throwing with reliever Marc Rzepczynski and gave me a toss up.

3. Found Rzerczynski. Many Cardinals tried to land their tosses in the upper deck and I found this one in the Pittsburgh Baseball Club.

4. Toss up Euclides Rojas. This was the ball A.J. Burnett used to warm up. It was Burnett used in the bullpen just prior to making his first start in a Pirates uniform.

I would have had more but wasn’t first into the third base side as I had to change gear. Erik benefitted or else I could have ended up with double digits again.

Burnett’s first start with the Pirates ended in a 2-0 victory and Pirates fans had a lot to cheer about.

Sunday April 22

Well once again the gates open 1/2 an hour later and there is no season ticket time, so this day stunk big time. The Pirates finished throwing and the Cardinals had wrapped up their session well before the gates opened for us.

Just to make things even better, both teams threw balls into the seats, but ushers were pocketing balls. Ushers were told during their yearly orientations that they were not allowed to pocket baseballs like they were able to in the past. This put my streak on the line again. Here is how I fared though.

1. Found baseball section 144- Erik and I braved today’s handicaps and I saw a ball go in right field that he missed. I went into the section I knew it was in and saw it was missing. I saw the usher who asked what I was looking for, and of course when I responded I quickly found out that he pocketed the basebll. He tried to act innocent but hey that was proof there that will not be tolerated.

2. Thrown ball from Herbie Andrade- Meant for a child. Had hand out in same place I always do and caught it/gave it to the child.

3. Toss up by Home Plate Umpire Mike DiMuro- It was Buc Day and many tickets and food items were a dollar. Erik gave me a ticket for section 124. The section right below it is 24 which is where the umpires enter and exit. I was able to get down there in plenty of time and get one of the two baseballs given out. Assist to Erik Jabs.

The Pirates lost the game and series 5-1.

Before I end this post I would like to give a couple of shoutouts:

1. There was a PNC Park Supervisor I met on April 20 that was very nice and we got to talk for 10 minutes. He said he reads my blog and had nothing but nice things to say. It was great to see his support and it is a part of why I keep writing.

2. To Erik Jabs for the help he gave me. He was leaving the ballpark and gave me that ticket for section 124 which helped out big time.

3. To Sara Guffey and Kelsey Robertson from the PPU Softball Team. The whole reason I went to the game was to do an interview with Kelsey for the school paper. Just doing an interview in the ballpark was cool and it was nice to sit down for a change.

Man Down?

I was set in my plans for this homestand. I was going to attend every single game except tomorrow’s (Friday’s) against the Reds as I have work. Here is what may make me reconsider.

Last Thursday I was on top of the world having leg pressed 300 pounds but things have changed since then.

I left Point Park’s softball games Sunday night and felt a discomfort in my lower back. I immediately assumed cramp and decided to drink some water and go to sleep.

I knew something was off when I woke up the next morning and still felt the discomfort. I went to class and took my final and it was still there after that. Still thinking it was a cramp or muscle fatigue I decided to go to the gym and put myself through the hardest core workout I have ever put myself through.

I immediately realized during the first set of reps that something was wrong as my back was flaring, especially when I did sit ups and various kicks.

Despite the pain, I pushed through it and finished the workout.

The usual dizziness followed but half an hour after the workout I felt the discomfort and it was still difficult bending down to get things.

Seeking a second opinion and still on campus, I went to the school nurse and described the pain. She immediately referred me to a doctor with an appointment being the next day.

I had to teach tennis that day and I still remember the pain and how I could not bend down to retrieve tennis balls or even bend so that I could get the the children’s eye levels.

I struggled to sleep that night and when I woke up I knew that all of my questions were going to be answered.

I described my feelings with my doctor and I had my assumptions as to what it would be. The doctor put his hand on the spot and he and I came to the same conclusion: strained back.

Yes the very same injury that is currently affecting future hall of famer Jim Thome. I was told on Tuesday to avoid heavy lifting for 7-10 days which leads me to a big perdicament.

I have been taking three Ibuprofen, one after each meal under doctor’s orders and the pain is slightly there but I cannot feel it as much. It is still tight.

I am honestly torn about attending the game Saturday under my usual Saturday strategy which would have me in one spot and not have to run around and risk my back. I also would have someone watch my bag since it would have a change of clothes. My only fear is that one wrong turn and my back is back to square one at best.

Also I have Bowling With the Bucs scheduled for Sunday, and I have already registered so I have to be super careful.

The gamer in me really wants to go. I average five balls a game on Saturdays and I would stay until BP is over before I leave the ballpark.

I have given myself a lot of rest and will continue to do so but I likely won’t make a decision until I wake up on Saturday.

What do you think I should do?

Pirates vs Colorado Rockies 4/23- 4/25 PNC Park

Again my computer is acting up so I will try to put pictures up at a later time.

Monday April 23:

Snow was written all over the forecast and I intended on going to this game, but the Pirates called the game hours in advance. Of course it ended up that they could have played the game as once noon struck it was a rather gentle rain compared to the 2-4 inches of snow Pittsburgh was expected to get.

Tuesday April 24:

I just didn’t have that usual vibe today compared to other games. I knew this would be the only BP but with my college radio show’s last episode of the semester being on this day and having finished at four, things were rushed and my rhythm was halted. That feel was just completely gone.

1. Hit by unknown Pirate/won scrum- I was struggling and with no Easter Egg, I got involved in a scrum. I was first up the steps and it ended up in my hand.

2. Hit by Jason Giambi- Giambi let one rip down by the first base line in foul territory. I dropped a couple of catchable flies in BP a few days earlier. This one was hit hard and curved a little bit. I tracked it and jogged a couple of steps. “Heads up,” I heard two Rockies yell. I was not about to duck. I heard a smack in my glove and in the ball went. Both Michael Cuddyer and Tyler Colvin gave me a thumbs up and nodded. I think they were impressed.

That was it and I was unable to get any dugout toss ups in BP. I was able to get a dugout box seat thanks to Erik but it never worked out.

It did allow me to get a baseball signed by Troy Tulowitzki which will go a long way towards helping The Children’s Institute.

The Pirates were baffled by Jamie Moyer’s 78 mile per hour fastball but rallied late winning 5-4 and exciting the fans.

Wednesday April 25 game one

I had my Psychology class and with no BP I knew it was a big risk by attending this game. I decided to go bold and wear my Evan Meek 2010 All-Star jersey.

I would arrive at 11:30 just in time to see the Evan Meek and Jason Grilli finish throwing.

“Evan could I please get a baseball for wearing your all-star jersey,” I pleaded.

“Sure buddy,” he said.

Ball #1.

That was it for game one.

Also I asked Kiyoshi Mimose the Latin Strength/Conditioning Coordinator for the Pirates for an exercise I would use the next day so it was great to hear his thoughts. More on him later.

The Pirates would drop the game 2-1 as the offense was unable to get anything truly going.

April 25 game two

I got a ball from Mimose after the game.

The Pirates won 5-1 and were aided by Carlos Gonzalez’s inability to see the ball in the sun. Charlie Morton with another great start for Pirates pitching.

I was somehow able to stay in the ballpark and got to see all of the Root Sports Postgame and get my picture taken with Kent “Teke” Tekulve.

I also got on jumbotron right before the seventh inning stretch.

I stayed long enough that I stayed to watch the Pirates leave. I got to thank Evan for the baseball, although it ended up being our last conversation before he was sent down earlier this week. Hopefully it is for the best as his stuff is not quite there and his location needs to be lower in the strike zone.

Finally, I got to talk to Steve Blass about reading his book. He asked if I liked it and I told him that I did and that seemed to make him happy.

That was it for the homestand. Things will resume tomorrow. This next post though will let you know why I am unsure as to how many games I will attend.