June 2012

Pirates vs Detroit Tigers 6/23 and 6/24 PNC Park

The Pirates won the first game of the series, but there were still two games to be played.

First off a congratulations to Tigers starter Max Scherzer. His brother had committed suicide just two days prior to his start. He did not want to make the start against the Pirates, but his parents told him they wanted something to smile at so he pitched. What a courageous move and it makes me respect him so much more than I already did. I don’t think I would have been able to emotionally cast that aside and make the start given the same circumstances.

Saturday was a tough day. I had already been to the NHL Draft and was very pleased with my experience (more on that in another entry).

The gates were an issue. It ended up that the Clemente Gate was operating like it was a Sunday. The gate should have opened at 1:30 to let us in at 2 PM. Sunday gate times are ridiculous and now we had to essentially endure two Sundays in a row.

Well I decided to blow off some steam on the Clemente Bridge and throw once more.

I knew there would BP, but it was 2:00 and the Pirates were already done with their BP so any of those easter eggs were already pocketed.

Only thing I could do is play for Prince Fielder who absolutely rakes during BP. Have to say I was a Fielder fan when he was on the Brewers because of this and this only. Unfortunately nothing happened for me and to boot, there were kids in the outfield so no toss ups.

When the gates opened, I ran to the first baseline as I knew there were two groups of Tigers still throwing.

There were no easter eggs, but I got there just in time for a ball that rolled right to where I stood. I saw a Tiger coming over but knew I needed to avoid a very possible shutout at all costs. I placed the ball in the glove for ball #1. Phew. As I brought it up, I gave it a quick look, and then still in the glove passed it to the Tiger.

30 seconds later, the second Tigers reliever Luis Marte saw me as the only person over with a glove and an easy toss up later I had ball #2.

I would get a third ball in BP although I forget how to be honest, I just know I got it. You will have to take my word for it.

That would be it for Tigers BP.

I then made my way to the bullpen and forsome reason with the whole 4:05 deal Euclides Rojas and Herbie Andrade were already in there.

I had asked Euclides Rojas to sign my glove Thursday but neither of us had a Sharpie. We had already said ours hellos today and I looked down and saw he had a Sharpie. I then looked down and somehow he remembered and we made eye contact. He motioned down for me to toss the glove and tossed it back up an easy catch.

I was in for a surprise though.

You will see Rojas who is the signature on the bottom right asked Herbie to sign as well. Kevin Correia also signed since you saw the glove last.

That was not the biggest surprise though.

Took the picture of the glove and then opened it up.

Ball #4

On this night it was a now clean shaven Brad Lincoln vs Scherzer.

The Pirates were able to get this win and take the series. Still there was one game to be played.

There was day 2 of Rojas and Rojas by the way, although the Tigers Rojas was blocked from my view.

Lastly, every Saturday Pirates Charities does a raffle selling 1 ticket for $2 and 3 for $5. You can try to win various items with the money going entire to Pirates Charities.

I got permission from Pirates Charities, most of the people I know to take some pictures. Here is one item.

Finally, some golf balls with the World Series logo and signed by Rocco Mediate. I got permission to take a golf ball out and take the photo.

Lastly, thing #2 that disgusts me about PNC Park. Let’s give it to the music at PNC Park. Literally every single day it is the exact same music being played outside the stadium. Then inside the stadium it is the same thing. I want to hear some diversity and it just gets on all of our nerves. I know season ticket holders always are talking about wishing the music was different and it truly annoys us all.

6-24

I think I have learned my lesson with Sunday games. There was a Pitch for Hope event that ended a little after 10. Pirates would not have to take BP until 11:15 and Saturday’s game ended at 7:04 PM so the option to take BP was possible but of course not.

So we were stuck until 12:00 when all of the gates were open.

With the Tigers not taking BP, it quickly became a borefest. It would be harder than ever just to get one baseball.

I won’t even discuss how there were two balls in play and I stood back to separate myself only to see kids get the balls.

Yeah I was really only there to support my college Point Park University. Their baseball team made it to their division’s World Series and it was a big deal for them. They were invited by Pirates President Frank Coonelly to be recognized on the field.

Pioneers Manager Loren Torres throws out a first pitch to the Pirate Parrot.

It honestly was a miracle I even got these pictures because the bullpen was crowded. Why? This guy was starting.

It was very hard to get pictures but I tried to get Kevin Correia vs Verlander.

All good things must come to an end and with this being the series finale, that meant goodbye Rojas and Rojas.

Here was the Pirates starting lineup:

After the game started, Rojas saw me and tossed up ball #1. Streak still alive but barely. I hate Sunday games.

Speaking of hated things, time to hit on thing #3 that disgusts me about PNC Park.

This time it’s the grounds crew. Cocky attitudes and being ridiculous in unnecessary circumstances warrents this award. Rain that ruins BP only to have it stop and have them do nothing but say “no bp”. Refer to other’s blogs on what all they do, I really don’t need to go into it.

As for the Pirates, they were in it against Verlander but fell short 3-2 in the end to lose the game.

The Pirates come back from a week long road trip Monday against the Houston Astros and that is when I plan on being back as well.

Pirates vs Detroit Tigers 6/22 PNC Park

I would attend this game with Colston who would show up a little late. I was more than on time and despite a minor injury threw around and had no troubles from long distance on the Clemente Bridge once again.

It was then into the ballpark where I was able to get two hit balls for a change for balls #1 and 2.

Ball #3 came from an unusually crowded first base as Tigers right fielder Quintin Berry threw me a high ball with a little pop.

Thanks Quintin.

Here are more pictures:

Too random to not put in the blog. Colston took this one during BP.

PNC Park ballhawk Jim Saylor tries his glove trick.

Then BP was over and I was very hungry. Alas, Diamond Pizza was calling.

I think the bullpen area has a bug problem because I set the plate down 10 minutes later and this was the result when I looked back down.

Then I got a bit bored so decided to take a picture of a person that was a part of one of my favorite pictures last season.

You may recall this guy last year from the one pic I took. Here is another pic of him.

Then Herbie Andrade and Euclides Rojas came into the bullpen and ball #4 came my way from Rojas.

Then it was onto day one of Rojas and Rojas as Euclides talked to fellow bullpen coach Mike Rojas.

The starters for the night Doug Fister and A.J. Burnett then started warming up in the bullpen.

Then I saw Burnett’s shoes which I thought looked cool.

Then I saw the Pirates defensive alignment.

Afterwards, I spent two innings by the bullpen until I retired up to the Hall of Fame Club to seek a cooler climate.

There we watched side by side as this…

… and this were on the TV’s.

Normally, I am not the biggest of hockey fans, but with the draft in Pittsburgh, I had a vested interest.

I also was in the Hall of Fame Club to meet celebrity bartender Bill Virdon and get a signed Pirates card to sell for charity.

We got in line in the bottom of the sixth. 20 minutes later.

This is up for charity. All proceeds go to The Children’s Institute.

Then this happened.

I also am happy to report that the Pirates won the game, something that excited the sellout crowd for sure.

Lastly it is time to start my series of things that disgust me.

#1 is the Pirates “fan”. These fans are just rude, drunk and have no idea what they’re talking about. They are the ones that think that since Penguins captain Sidney Crosby hit a home run in BP a couple or so years ago he should be on the team. They join the “fan club” once school is out in June and leave once Steelers Training Camp starts. I would give you more but I will leave this thought with a picture.

This idiot decided to celebrate that he had the Rivers Casino lucky number in his program. Uhh… pretty much everyone else did too. He was more pumped about this than the game.

Stay tuned for the second item on this list in the next entry.

All in all not a terrible day.

The next day would be very upsetting though. Would a gate opening confusion ruin my streak? Will there be a second day of Rojas and Rojas? Could the Pirates defeat Max Scherzer after he struck out so many hitters in the last meeting? You’ll have to read the next entry to find out.

Pirates vs Minnesota Twins 6/19 and 6/21 PNC Park

6/19

I was really excited to be back at PNC Park and although the crowds would increase just because of this, I was up for the challenge.

I started with the usual stretching. Then I went onto the bridge to throw and my arm was ready. I was making throws from about halfway across the bridge without any bounces.

Then it was time to brave the over 90 degree heat and try to snag some baseballs.

We all went in to look for easter eggs, I went into the second deck and there hiding under the seat portion was a ball for ball #1. It’s about time I found an easter egg over there. Ushers, prize wheel members and pizza shop owners have been going in and pocketing the baseballs for their own personal benefit. While some are being given to kids, many are kept and that is not right. Remember we are watching and if we catch you then you will have to deal with Dennis and that may mean termination. Think about that.

The highlight of Pirates BP for me was when Pedro Alvarez was hitting. He hit an opposite field ground rule double, and I was two sections over, but quickly ran over and got it for ball #2.

Pirates BP doesn’t usually result in too many baseballs since the first group which contains Andrew McCutchen has already hit.

Twins BP was more promising with their lefties.

Still it wasn’t 5:30 yet so I had to stay in left or play a crowded riverwalk. I went with the first option and since I was the only who knew who pitcher Liam Hendriks was, I got ball #3.

Ball #4 occurred after 5:30 in centerfield. Twins Alex Burnett and the other Twin who I think was Brian Duensing were generous with tossups and Duensing gave me a nice toss up. Assist goes to a random kid who asked them to sign the ball. It made Duensing turn around and got me the ball.

I tried my luck at first base, but it was not to be. So I went to the dugout. It was a packed area but I was the only one with a glove. Perfect.

Twins coach Joe Vavra had baseballs and he was looking for people to throw them too. Ball #5. Can of corn.

That would be it or Tuesday and the Pirates were able to get a win in Ryan Doumit and Matt Capps’ returns to Pittsburgh. I left after the first inning in order to beat the heat.

I would not attend Wednesday’s game due to an appointment and instead went to Greentree to watch summer league basketball.

6/21

I did the exact same routine as Tuesday and the throws were still great. In even better news, I finally got my camera so from here on in, you will get to see actual game pics.

I expected big things for this game but when I came in and saw no easter eggs, I looked on the field and the cage was not up yet.

Honestly, my first thought was, “You’ve got to be ******* kidding me!”

Jason Grilli could see the grim looks on everyone’s faces and told us it was hot and the Pirates would not hit. The Twins would though.

I would not get any of the relievers baseballs although I tried to solve a rumor. Quinn a commentor on here said that Doug Slaten would dougie during his time in AAA so when my water accidentally fell and Slaten retrieved it, I asked him and he said he didn’t. Interestingly enough it led to an enjoyable conversation.

Randomly my buddy Euclides Rojas at the very end long tossed me a baseball that landed in the glove for ball #1.

Taking a break from ballhawking I have set out on a mission. I am trying to get my glove signed by as many Pirates as possible. Why? Barring a setback, I intend on this being my last full season of ballhawking. While I definitely enjoy it and would continue doing select road trips, my passion is journalism and I would love to work as an intern with them or cover the team from that perspective all season. I think this will be a cool way to remember what has been a part of my life since July 2009.

Here was the progress thru this game:

Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan are the first two to sign the glove. Both have been understanding of the charity and happily signed it.

Back to the ballhawking portion of this entry. I tried the first base area and was able to get Jared Burton to throw me a ball for the second snag of the day.

That was it for Twins BP so I went to the dugout and try a Joe Vavra toss up again. He tossed a high one so I looked back and judged and made a circus catch for ball #3. Thanks Joe!

From there, it was off to the bullpen for James McDonald vs Liam Hendriks.

Here is a random shot I got. Poor Euclides. I was trying to take a picture of him and this happened.

Meanwhile in the Twins bullpen, Hendriks was still warming up but the relievers were all already in the bullpen and apparently fans of Fifa Soccer as evidenced by this photo which reminded me of the wall in soccer. Also as a reference the first reliever on the left was Burton who threw me ball #2.

Ultimately, Rojas threw me another ball for ball #4 which was awesome.

The bullpen then came in.

Then I heard some singing

Speaking of awesome, the Pirates got off to a fast start, and I left early again and left any hope of the Twins winning with me.

All in all, not a bad series and the Pirates took care of business against the Twins and James McDonald pitched his first ever complete game. McDonald has been a different Pirates pitcher this season and even when I watch him from the bullpen, he is much more confident in himself and his stuff and it is a complete transformation. I would say that getting McDonald at the deadline a couple years back was Neal Huntington’s best move as Pirates GM.

As for me it was on to the Tigers series and more triumphs and frustrations.

Speaking of frustrations, I have decided to challenge myself. PNC Park is considered by many to be the “Best Ballpark in America” however no ballpark is perfect and PNC is far from it. I have decided that for each of the remaining home games starting with the Tigers game on Friday, I would come up with one thing about the ballpark that digusts me and will put it in the entry. At the end of the season there will be a master list compiled. These opinions are mine and mine only with no outside influence.

Well I guess you’ll have to wait for the next entry to see the debut of that as well as how I did in the first game of the Tigers series.

Throwing with the Pittsburgh Power

Yes this is mostly a baseball and ballhawking blog, but occasionally, I like to switch things up and thus this entry.

Because I work now, my pregame ballhawking routine is a lot less strenuous compared to what it was last season. In short, I arrive usually 30 minutes prior to the gates opening so I get a little stretching in and then I usually try to find someone to throw with on the bridge.

Despite having press passes for the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League all season, I knew that it was Wish Night and anyone, media included could submit a wish to be granted. A buddy of mine got to be the PA Announcer in the third quarter, so I thought about it and knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I love to throw on the bridge as it gets the juices flowing and prepares me for what is to come. With that in mind, I requested to go on the field and throw with whomever.

I was not sure what to expect but my wish was one of 15 to be granted which was cool. I had never touched an Arena Football before and only was on the arena surface once, so I knew going in that I was unsure of how I would do.

I was excited to see how I would do and hoped that I would not let my fellow ballhawks down and catch the return throws with some consistency.

There was a bit of a delay to get on the field or I would have had more time and maybe had time to show off the speed that I wanted to show the team. I was ready to run but never had the chance to do so.

When I got on the field, I was immediately greeted by backup quarterback Andrico Hines and new offensive coordinator and former Steelers quarterback Mike Tomczak. I also got to shake hands with starting quarterback Bryan Randall and got this picture taken before we started.

From left: Tomczak, myself, Randall and Hines.

Then at long last it was time to throw.

Much like in baseball, Tomczak and I stood close together and got further apart and then worked on throwing the ball in specific spots. Before long, we were 30 yards out, and I was having no problems making the throw.

Tomczak apparently liked what he saw.

“He’s not dropping everything and his throws are getting better and better.”

He was impressed and I was pleased with my efforts. Hines also provided a lot of encouragement.

Meanwhile the Power players on the field were raving about the shirt I was wearing. I have used the saying on my shirt ever since I started hitting the gym in the second semester and said it so much that for a while it became my mantra in the gym. I heard the encouragement, but was focused on the task at hand.

Then came the hard part, the netting. I say that it is hard because when the ball deflects off of it, it can be hard to track the ball. Here Tomczak is giving me advice on how to handle it.

This was among the results, a highlight reel catch.

Finally towards the end it was time for some one on one between myself and Tomczak.

The result was one of these each time.

The 10 minutes I had just felt short and I was just getting warmed up. I was ready to run but it was great and I hope to able to throw with the players again sometime. Thanks so much to Brad Wittke, Mike Gorham, Justin Gould and the rest of the Power ownership for allowing me to do this. For more indepth thoughts on the experience itself, feel free to visit http://www.cityofchampionssports.com later this week.

Pirates at Baltimore Orioles 6/14 Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Despite being delayed for a couple of days, I was really looking forward to heading the Baltimore. Erik and Nick’s schedule did not match mine, so I called fellow ballhawk Rick Sporcic who was more than willing to make the trip with me.

I was pleased to have a lot of leg room in Rick’s Camaro which made the 4.5 hour trip a whole lot easier.

We left at 9 AM on Thursday and arrived right on schedule.

We parked inside the Marriott Hotel parking lot and right when we left there, knew that we were in Orioles country.

We walked to the Eutaw Street Gate which is unique because it essentially is a street inside a ballpark. Tons of Orioles souvenir shops, eats, views and memorabilia all on a street and then the both ends serving as entrances.

Also there are a lot of great things to see outside of the Eutaw Street entrance.

With tons of time left, the two of us went sightseeing, and this was the first picture I took and ultimately what would be my first impression of Baltimore. A really weird impression to say the least.

This woman posed with four cops in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. They let her borrow a night stick. Uhh…

Also saw the most interesting name of a restaurant in Baltimore as well.

Stay classy Baltimore

I had my sights set on the Barnes and Noble in the Inner Harbor which I heard was rather large and it was.

The traffic was more than I had expected although there was a Sailabration being held in Baltimore. Apparently the event was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 when Francis Scott Key wrote the National Anthem.

I was able to buy a couple of books.

With Eutaw Street opened early, I bought my ticket and was able to go in way early.

Upon entering I went over to the bullpen area. Unlike the last time Rick was there, the area was locked off and someone was watching it.

This was my first image when I set up by the pen.

I then looked down into the bullpen where Pitching Coach Ray Searage was smoking something that was dark brown. Herbie Andrade and Euclides Rojas both were there as well and said hello to me.

They were there for Brad Lincoln’s bullpen session.

We also saw Jeff Karstens throw 15 pitches from the bullpen.

I knew I needed to try and snag that Boston Red Sox commemorative baseball. I thought my best bet would be to ask Rojas, a former Red Sox coach, so I did. I got the biggest look of confusion on his face afterwards, and obviously he had no idea what I was talking about.

Around 4 PM, we got kicked out and let the waiting game for 5 PM begin.

Rick and I would throw for 30 minutes and I have to say that I was throwing the fastest I had in a long time and the pop’s in Rick’s glove were evidence of that.

Afterwards I saw a man in an orange Orioles shirt and I knew right away who it was when he came up to me.

“Hit me,” I said.

What is this you ask? Well if you see the man in the following photo, he sprays a small squirt of water on your face and you get to choose a baseball card.

Don’t believe me?

Here was the card I picked.

Not too many pictures of BP but here is one of the Pirates pitchers throwing.

Then the camera was turned off. Lincoln tried protecting the pitchers but could not protect two hit balls that were hit into the stands about a minute apart very close to where I was standing for balls 1 and 2 of the day. Even better were that both were Orioles commemoratives meaning all I would need was the Red Sox commemorative to get all six.

I slowly filed over to the Pirates dugout and noticed Manager Clint Hurdle.

“Good luck today Clint,” I said.

“Thank you,” he said looking up and then realized me.

Then upon realizing it was me and recognized me continued.

“Hey, how have you been,” he asked.

“I’ve been great, how about you,” I replied.

“Great thank you. What brings you up here,” he asked.

“Honestly, I went up with a buddy to see a new ballpark, see the team play and to catch more baseballs for The Children’s Institute,” I replied.

“Hey, that’s my charity too,” he answered.

“I know, and I really would like to collaborate if that’s possible,” I said.

“Dang, now I’m going to have to get you the whole cart,” He replied referencing the big cart full of baseballs that would be thrown for bp.

He then went over to the top of the bag and pulled out a brand new baseball (with the practice logo) and tossed it to me for ball #3. I thanked him, wished him luck again and we parted ways.

Orioles BP ended and Rick joined me. He asked Orioles Bullpen Catcher Ronnie Deck for two Red Sox commemoratives and Deck did meet us.

“You’re the two that I owe baseballs to,” he asked.

We confirmed and he proceeded to check the baseballs. Weirdly he then blew us off and left with all of the baseballs. Needless to say we weren’t pleased but now not surprised when I heard that he stiffed Erik and Nick as well.

I would get two more baseballs, both from my buddy Coach Mark Strittmatter. There was a roped off area and he saw me, so I went down. He had a baseball which he gave me for ball #4. It had the normal logo on it. I asked if he knew anything about the Red Sox commemorative and he said they had some Orioles commemoratives but no Red Sox. He threw me ball #5 once BP was over and it was an Orioles ball. We talked as well and shook hands before parting ways.

Rick wanted to watch the whole game and I can’t blame him and he figured we’d leave Camden around 9:30 until I told him that Erik Bedard would get the start.

While Bedard went for the Pirates it would be Tommy Hunter for the Orioles.

After the first inning, I decided to walk around and check out the ballpark. Here are some pictures of what I found.

The Orioles kids club members got this poster.

Home of the Baltimore Ravens. If we had more time we would have gone in here.

$10 buys you a decent amount of chicken tenders and fries. The tenders were pretty good.

Common door opener at Camden.

This particular memorabilia store sold items from this, to…

… to this.

This is a seating area that is first come first serve.

View from the area

Here are some game pictures:

Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones.

Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen

Since Rod Barajas is the starting catcher, Michael McKenry enters the bullpen midway through the game.

Don’t laugh Pirates fans, Dana Eveland still does pitch in the MLB.

Rick and I got very close tickets towards the end of the game to try and get an umpire ball.

Yeah… the Pirates lost big time.

Jose Tabata makes contact in the ninth inning, but it is not enough to get the job done.

The Pirates would ultimately fall short.

Now my review of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The place is nice and spread out. Left field gives you room and a fair chance to stretch your legs and even get a baseball or two if you are a ballhawk.

The ballhawks can be aggressive but are friendly and welcome you to the ballpark.

You can get in early through Eutaw Street and this is a huge plus as it is open from 9-4 before reopening at 5 PM. It lets you get some food, buy that keepsake item and even go by the bullpen and get some interaction.

I am definitely did not like the fact that they have a designated smoking area. I apologize to smokers but I am against smoking inside a public place and that includes ballparks. It cluttered up the surrounding area and many smokers just ignored the designated area and just lit up wherever the pleased.

The fans are passionate about their Orioles but despite wearing a Pirates shirt all day, I was not heckled one time.

I will definitely be going back to Baltimore this year and it should be a great time. I thank Rick so much for taking me, although next time, I don’t think we should come and go in one day as we did leave right after the game and I got home around 3:30 or 4 AM and I was TIRED.

A quick time in to discuss the end of the game. The home plate umpire did not hook either myself or Rick up with baseballs. Frankly I wanted the lineup cards, but was ignored which sucked.

Jim Joyce was the last umpire in and signed two items, one of which was Rick’s baseball.

Before he left I knew I had something I wanted to say to him ever since the whole Armando Galaraga perfect game debacle.

“Jim. I really appreciate the way you handled the aftermath of that perfect game. You handled it with class and I really respect that,” I told him.

“Thank you so much, that really means a lot,” he said and he shook my hand before he left.

Before I finally wrap up this entry, I might as well show you a couple of the things I got.

Free from Orioles Fan Assistance

Somehow managed to get a free Orioles media guide and spiral bound too!

So not the greatest of days and no Red Sox commemorative baseball, but still all in all, a fun time and three Orioles commemorative.

Now the wait is until Tuesday for a six game homestand which ends on Sunday. The Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers are coming to town and things could go well for me although Saturday’s game is a 4:15 start and not 7:05 which will hurt all ballhawks totals as there will be no season ticket holder time. With attendance being higher due to the Pirates winning and interleague, things could get a bit harder in this coming week.

Pirates vs Kansas City Royals 6/9 PNC Park

It was Ballhawkfest and the competition was going to be more than usual despite Erik and Nick leaving to ballhawk in Baltimore.

I left work at 4 PM and went straight into line. Immediately I needed to quickly stretch and prepare myself to throw.

I began throwing with Rick and Robbie on the bridge and was shortly joined after by the Happy Youngster and the Cooks who showed up late.

After the nice throwing session we all got to our spots in line and waited for the gates to open.

When they did open, I quickly searched left field for easter eggs and saw everything was pocketed.

With Erik gone, I checked the third base side, and wouldn’t you know it, there was ball #1 just lying there and I quickly grabbed it before settling for first base.

I was on a mission on this day to try and catch a Baltimore Orioles commemorative baseball and it cost me 3-4 baseballs in the process, something which I regret.

Ball #2 came on a toss up from Charlie Morton. It was almost certainly the last toss up he threw in a Pirates uniform this season as he will have Tommy John surgery and miss 12 to 18 months, a tough break for a guy who is just a season removed from his career year.

Ball #3 came from Royals coach Steve Foster. I asked him to help me out with an Orioles commemorative for charity. He went to get a ball and tossed it to me but it was a regular ball. Ball #3 but I was shaking my head.

That was it during the Pirates portion of BP, I likely could have been at 6 if I hadn’t tried things such as talking to Jeff Francoeur. I asked him to come over to me when he finished throwing the football but he never did.

Ball #4 came when it was hit towards the first base side. I knew I had it and picked it up and was sad to see another normal baseball.

I was still in Pirates gear at this point but with time winding down with Royals BP, I did a quick change and upon coming down saw that reliever Kelvin Herrera with a ball. There were people in the front row so I took the approach that worked for Erik when the Cardinals were here and stayed in the 100’s level around the middle of the section. I held the glove up and that did the trick for ball #4. A family of four did not see that I was there so they got scared and I had to extend to make the catch and I got some applause from them. The ball was not commemorative and was given to their child.

That was it for Royals BP as there were no toss ups following BP.

I saw recent call up Clint Robinson and asked what he knew with the baseballs and if he could help me out but he was unable to do so.

I went to the bullpen and Herbie Andrade came in with a ball. I asked him if he wanted me to warm him up but he just threw it up. A random ball #5.

The Pirates were able to find a way to get the victory much to the delight of a packed house at PNC Park which were mostly there because of a Boyz II Men concert. I wish that one of these days that fans will come for the right reason.

My quest for an Orioles ball would not be denied so just yesterday (June 14) Rick and I went up to Baltimore and then back after the game. Would I get the Orioles commemoratives that I needed? Would there be any Red Sox commemoratives, you’ll have to read the next (long) entry to find out.

Lastly, with it being ballhawkfest, we all took a group picture which is below:

Some of the participants for Ballhawkfest here in Pittsburgh.

Yes I do have an Orioles commemorative in here. It was given to me but I decided not to count it since I did not officially snag it.

Pirates vs Kansas City Royals 6/8 PNC Park

After some time off, it was time for the Pirates to come back home and I was ready. It was the beginning of the Pirates home interleague schedule and some bigger crowds because it was a Friday, the Pirates were doing well and interleague generally draws more fans regardless of how bad the other team is. Fans don’t get to see these teams much and the Royals most recent trip to PNC Park before this one was in 2009.

I was able to get a stretch in before heading to the ballpark. I knew I wanted to do what I could today as Ballhawkfest was the next day, and I wanted to be sure that I would be ready.

When gates opened, I was still waiting for my friend Colston but had to speed in there where of course there were no easter eggs to be found.

It took a while to get on the board but Doug Slaten threw a ball to me just because my glove was up. Okay. Ball #1. I was talking to someone who said he had never caught a ball and he had a glove so I asked if he wanted it and slipped in his glove.

I was still talking to him as the third group came up. Matt Hague was taking his second round of cuts when I saw a ball coming in hot and straight for me. I knew I was the only one with a shot at it since it was not going to bounce into the seats. Bullpen Coach Herbie Andrade and the Pirates relievers had a front row seat as I bent down over the left field wall and snagged the ball for ball #2. I got some applause but picked right back up where I left off in my conversation.

I wish I could say that picked me up and Pirates BP went better, but of course not.

I tried my luck in the corner in left field but the ball never carried enough to get a toss up from Royals reliever Louis Coleman when the team took their cuts, but it did not work.

So onto centerfield I went where it still was not terribly crowded. A few minutes in, Royal reliever Kelvin Herrera tossed me ball #3 after I asked him in Spanish. He was pretty generous with toss ups both Friday and Saturday. More on that in the next entry.

I then relocated to the first base side where Saturday’s starter Vin Mazzaro was by himself. I was able to get him to throw me a baseball for ball #4.

The Pirates would win the first game of the series against the Royals and remained two games back as the Cincinnati Reds were able to beat the Detroit Tigers on a walkoff suicide squeeze. You don’t see that every day.

The next day my fortunates as well as the Pirates would change.

Pirates vs Cincinnati Reds 5/30 PNC Park

I knew that three was the magic number today and I hoped I would get there to get to my 100th snag of the season.

Things got off to a great start. I was first to arrive, felt good during stretches and had a nice throwing session with ballhawk Rick Gold who made the trip.

I quickly realized today though that I was going to have my work cut out for me. I ran into left field as I usually do but something felt a little off during my sprint. I felt a groin pull and I knew that I was in trouble.

Speed is an advantage I have over the other ballhawks and a groin pull limited my speed big time. When I would speed up I would feel the injury so I had to choose my spots but it hurt the entire night.

This injury was a huge reason why I could not go for any scrums. I was just off all day and I was worried big time that I would get shut out.

Pirates BP came and I had yet to get on the board and I tried to map out a gameplan for the Reds but I knew something just did not feel right.

The Reds first group was doing okay when catcher Ryan Hanigan hit a ball coming directly at me. I made a sharp move forward to try and get into position since I knew it was going to bounce up to me and I felt the groin again which caused me to drop the ball and get some boos from people who did not understand the pain that I was feeling.

Fortunately for me, Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek saw the whole thing and saw the wince of pain and made the short walk to pick up the ball and toss it to me for ball #1. Phew shutout averted.

I then made the big run to another section to wait for it to open and was in an enormous amount of pain due to the injury.

I checked right field and found no easter eggs and the usher there said, “we checked and didn’t find any baseballs up here.”

“Yeah, because you pocketed them all,” I muttered and walked down still in pain.

I slowly walked into centerfield and saw Rick Sporcic. In an earlier post I had very negative things to say about him as did the rest of the Pittsburgh ballhawks. My big issue was that he called my charity “questionable”. As I stated in that post, I found it insulting to The Children’s Institute and the children who I am trying to help. Rick and I started working out our differences and when I saw him in centerfield, I knew we were both in ballhawk mode so I said what I wanted to say quickly.

“Could you meet me around 6:15 by the bullpen,” I asked.

“Sure no problem,” Rick said.

That was that, I was pleased that when 6:15 did roll around there was Rick as promised and we talked things out and we are on good terms now, something I know pleases both of us because I know I don’t want any trouble and try to get along with everyone.

My ballhawking day was still not done and while in center, I got ball #2 from Jose Arredondo by once again asking him in Spanish.

That would be it for Reds BP for me and I took my spot by the bullpen.

I was able to have conversations with various people before Bullpen Catcher Euclides Rojas came in made his customary wave to me. He then went into the baseball bag and inspected the baseballs before pulling one out and tossing it to me for ball #3. How fitting was it that Euclides was the one who gave me my 100th baseball of the season? It was awesome to get that monkey off of my back.

As if that wasn’t good enough Bullpen Catcher Herbie Andrade also tossed me a baseball, #4 on the day.

The Pirates would win the game and I would stay at four baseballs.

While I sit here writing this, I am only hours away from a ballgame against the Royals and I am excited to have what I hope to be a big day. Colston will be with me and today will help me gauge things as Ballhawkfest is tomorrow with ballhawks galore expected to attend.

Pirates vs Cincinnati Reds 5/28 PNC Park

I knew today was important. I needed to snag three baseballs to get to 300 in my career and I was hopeful that today would be the day. I would be first in line and again took the chance despite no Pirates BP once again.

When I came into the ballpark I knew I would have to wait the usual 30 minutes on a day game before we are able to go in. I saw the cage up though and knew the Reds would be hitting.

I will just fast forward past those 30 minutes where plenty of balls were again pocketed.

I would be able to get in but just for the last two groups of BP which was not ideal.

I quickly had to measure the situation and stayed in left field upon entering.

There were some Reds fans to my right who were on pitcher Mat Latos when he had baseballs. I took advantage of this after a while after he was close.

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

“Because you said please,” he responded while looking at the rude Reds fans. Ball #1, thanks Mat!

I knew then and there that it was time to leave that area and I had my strategy for the rest of BP all mapped out at that point running to centerfield.

I played a corner area in 141 hoping for a toss up and I got fortunate rather quickly.

The Reds trio of Aroldis Chapman, Alfredo Simon and Jose Arredondo all were in right center and I was ready. A ball game close by to where I was standing and Arrendondo went to retrieve it. I asked him in Spanish and I knew he heard me, but with a kid close by he tossed it to the kid, something I completely understood.

Seconds later, a ball came to a rest at the Clemente Wall. Arrendondo went over and pointed to me before throwing the ball. Ball #2. Muchas gracias Jose!

I decided to stay in centerfield for a short while longer and chase my 300th career baseball in section 139, where I have snagged some Andrew McCutchen toss up balls before innings and also close by where my season tickets for two seasons were.

A Reds batter lifted a flyball to lefty reliever Sean Marshall who was patrolling the area and made the catch as he back pedaled towards me.

“Sean,” I half-heartedly said.

Without making eye contact and with the ball still in his glove, he used his glove to underhand me the ball and I made the catch. A great way to get ball #3 on the day and 300 in my young ballhawking career. I have had my struggles and inconsistencies with that throw when I am on the bridge with Nick and Erik so it is ironic that the ball came that way.

Thank you Sean for baseball #300!

I then went over to first base to try my luck and came away empty handed despite toss up attempts. I also got stiffed at the dugout by a random Reds employee who had changed since the last time the Reds were in Pittsburgh. Oh well, it happens.

I then continued applying massive sunscreen just like the whole weekend, except it was even hotter on this day and I thought I was going to melt.

The first person to enter the bullpen was Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas. He looked into the ball bag and was inspecting the baseballs, something he normally does. He had already looked up to see me and we had our usual short conversation.

He ended up throwing the two up and I was the first one he threw too. It was ball #4 on the day.

About 20 minutes later Bullpen Catcher Herbie Andrade did the same. He had already said hello but like always he threw with the pitcher and then came in. Much like a previous entry, he carried a baseball in his hand, and I had a feeling that I knew where it was going to end up and I was right, ball #5.

I want to take this short pause to express my appreciation towards both Herbie and Euclides. They both have been great to me these past two seasons and getting to talk to them has been great. I appreciate the help they are giving me towards my charity and even if they didn’t do that, they always make my day when they look up to see if I am there. They always light up, wave and see how I am doing. It is something small, but something I don’t take for granted. When I ballhawk it makes me feel like a ballplayer of sorts, and this daily gestures furthers that feeling and it makes me feel so grateful.

The Pirates would win the game and make it a long day for former Pirate Bronson Arroyo. It was great to see although I wish I was smart enough to watch more of the game from the shade.

The next day’s game May 29th, I was in the press box at PNC Park and I did get four baseballs, three of which I tossed back in and when the Reds didn’t care about the other one, I tossed it to a kid wearing a Reds uniform. I pointed to him and underhanded it his way. Since I was officially a member of the Pirates that day, I will not be counting any of these baseballs.

As for the press pass, I had a plan of attack and got everything I needed before the game began [yes before the rain delay as well].

The articles were all for a website I write for called cityofchampionssports.com and the site is always worth your time and a read as it discusses all things Pittsburgh sports.

I will link you to the articles, so that you can give them a read.

The first two were interviews I had with the Cincinnati Reds.

The first interview was with Reds reliever J.J. Hoover. The angle was that he was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and still lives close by. I wanted just to get his thoughts for a couple of minutes.

http://cityofchampionssports.com/2012/05/31/cincinnatti-reds-reliever-j-j-hoover-reflects-on-his-pittsburgh-roots-2/

As an aside in the middle of the interview, teammate Wilson Valdez started singing the hook to Incubus “Drive”. Here is the link to that song:

I also was given the chance to interview Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips right before the team did their stretches for BP. I knew that he was one of the most outgoing players in the MLB so I was glad that he spent a few minutes with me.

http://cityofchampionssports.com/2012/05/31/brandon-phillips-reflects-on-the-reds-chances-of-winning-the-nl-central/

After the interview was over, we discussed his appearance at the MLB Fan Cave and eating some weird foods with Chef Andrew Zimmern.

http://mlb.mlb.com/fancave/video.jsp?content_id=21858875&topic_id=17160334&c_id=mlb

The main article I wrote was Pirates related and on Pirates relievers Tony Watson and Jared Hughes. Both opened up to me and here is the link to that.

http://cityofchampionssports.com/2012/06/01/tony-watson-jared-hughes-realize-dreams-making-contributions-in-the-bullpen/

All in all a great experience and I hope you enjoyed the articles.

August 16, 2011 was the date I snagged my 100th baseball last season and on May 30 in the series finale against the Reds, I needed three baseballs in order to get there. Would I be able to do it?

Pirates vs Cubs 5/27 PNC Park

It was a Sunday game for me as I had a friend that was taking me for free and we were sitting in the shade. It would be a hot day and I knew going in that once again there would be no Pirates BP.

Sundays are just frustrating and we get in later than Sundays last year. I am really trying to raise a solid amount of money for The Children’s Institute, and this only makes it harder on me.

I still took the chance and fortunately, the Cubs would take BP, but their first and best group had already hit by the time we were allowed in. To boot, a chef and prize wheel people pocketed the only couple of baseballs in left field, making things even tougher.

After about 10 minutes in left field I gave up. I was sick of tons of kids screaming, “here, here, here.” Honestly these players have names and say please and thank you. I am tired of the children thinking everything is handed to them. Your parents taught you manners, please use them.

I decided to just try first base and pray for the best.

Things were rough from the get go, as I knew the people over there could remember me from the previous day.

Bullpen catcher Andrew Lane fielded a ball and I told myself this could be my only chance

“Andrew, could you please toss me the baseball,” I asked.

“Hey, I remember you from yesterday, but you’re wearing a Cubs shirt,” He said.

“I know. I am trying to get raise money for charity and catching baseballs is my way of doing it, and thus the shirt,” I replied.

“What charity,” he asked.

We talked for about 30 seconds and he tossed the ball over for ball #1.

I ended up being right. It was my only chance all day, as Pat Listach once again ignored my asking for a baseball.

Oh well, I still got the watch the pitchers warm up and as always, interact with Bullpen Catcher Herbie Andrade and Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas.

The Pirates would end up winning the game and giving the Cubs their 12th straight loss. The Pirates got a seemingly rare home sweep which was huge and needed when they were facing such a weak opponent.

The Pirates would move on and play the division leading Cincinnati Reds the next day on Memorial Day. How would I fare on a day where the Pirates again took no BP? You’ll have to stay tuned for the next entry.

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