July 2012

Pirates vs Miami Marlins 7/22 PNC Park

This will be a short entry as I did not arrive to the 1:35 game until 1:15. You all should know that Sunday games are brutal. I got a nice workout in, and then a short while later departed with my parents, brother and his friend to the game. Why? I was finally able to redeem my suite and got to invite people to join me. With it being my brother’s 11th birthday on Monday, I decided this would be a great day to do this.

Getting shutout seemed very likely given the circumstances, however Euclides Rojas came through for me with a toss up after starter Jeff Karstens warmed up.

Meanwhile I try to help my brother get an autograph every time he shows up, which is once a season. Last year, he got Chris Resop on a baseball and this time I was able to get some help from Jason Grilli who signed my brother’s baseball and his friend’s hat (my brother and his friend forgot another baseball and toys but fortunately the TV in the suite change to Cartoon Network, so they were entertained).

So with all of us happy, I grabbed their hands and we all walked up to the suite where we were joined by 12 other friends and family. I played host and did my best to make sure everyone was enjoying the game before sitting with my friends Andrew and Colston. We all host A to Z Sports at Point Park, and this was the first time all three of us were together since the end of the school year. It was great to just talk and share tons of laughs like we always too. It was relaxing and just fun.

The Pirates had fans on the edges of their seats with a low scoring game, but they got the job done to get a sweep of the Miami Marlins. They had a ton of momentum as the Chicago Cubs came to town.

Thing that disgusts me about PNC Park = All You Can Eat Seats People are paying for an outfield seat just to eat food, and a lot of people choose not to eat the food. Really? Just buy the outfield reserved ticket and save the money then. Plus, they leave such a mess and can’t clean up after themselves. The Pirates employ people to clean up from the end of the game to close to when the gates open. Don’t make them do extra work because of your laziness.

Oh and this happened towards the end of the game. First it started in the third inning, but then they did the wave again and one drunk man cracked me up. Oh I still think the wave needs to be saved for certain situations, but everyone views that differently.

It was fun being in the suites and counteracted the hot weather. I would later find out that quite a few people passed out throughout the ballpark.

Although there was only peanuts, snack mix and chips there it was just great fun with a lot of people, and really that’s what it’s all about.

Pirates vs Miami Marlins 7/21 PNC Park

Finally a Saturday 7:05 game, which meant BP. About time, I hate Fox ruining Saturdays for me.

It also meant I got to go to the first base side for once which was nice.

I came in when the ballhawks already were deep into their throwing session and had were doing situation pitching. I of course came in cold and proceeded to walk the batter on four pitches, but whatever.

Upon getting to the first base side, I checked the second area and then ran down just as Jared Hughes was picked up a ball. One sinker later and I had ball #1.

He ended up moving to centerfield and Tony Watson who has thrown me a few balls, was walking towards me.

“Could you do me a favor,” he asked.

“Yeah, what do you need,” I replied.

“If you throw this water bottle away, I will get you a baseball,” I said.

Honestly would have thrown it away even if there was no baseball involved.

He tossed me the bottle and I took care of it.

As I threw it away, I heard, “here comes your ball now”.

The toss was high, but I reached the glove up high for ball #2.

That was it for Pirates BP.

Although I did have a nice conversation with Euclides Rojas.

“How was school,” he asked.

“School was fine. Now I have about a couple of months before I start though. I am doing an internship now though,” I replied.

“Great,” he said. “What do you go to school for?”

“I go for journalism, and I really am learning a lot,” was my reply back.

It was awesome talking to Euclides about something other than baseball.

When they ran off the field. I saw Marlins coach Randy St. Clare and my buddy from back in Cleveland Jeff Urgelles who hooked me up with the Marlins Park commemorative ball.

While both them and I waited for the pitchers to come over, I decided to work on my pitching.

Urgelles saw my motion and much like when the Astros were in town, it led to conversation.

“Is that your curveball,” he asked.

“Yeah it is,” I replied.

He then gave me a couple of pointers on it, and it made sense. This is the second time I have had the opportunity to talk to a coach just based on throwing and I think that is cool. Just learning from people who catch professional pitchers and their various pitches on a daily basis is just an awesome opportunity.

When Marlins BP came, I waited for an overthrow from the pitchers and that never happened. Although I did get to the bottom of one mystery.

Remember how in yesterday’s entry I got a ball from a mystery Marlins lefty who threw a ball into the 300 level? I had asssumed it was Mike Dunn and when I saw him, I decided to ask him.

“Mike, was that you who threw that ball all the way up there (point) yesterday. It was a great toss up, and I ran up and found the ball,” I said.

“Honestly, that wasn’t me,” he said.

“Must have been Randy then, right” I replied.

“Yeah it was Randy,” was the answer.

Randy was Randy Choate. Choate is in his 11th season in the Majors, and thru Sunday’s game had a 2.19 ERA. Glad I got to the bottom of that mystery. Thanks Mike and Randy.

Ball #3 meanwhile came in a weird way. I was waiting for Anibal Sanchez to finish throwing and Jose Reyes was taking cuts. All of a sudden, I here a loud boom and a ball was rolling hard to me. I gloved it and was confused. I initially thought a kid threw a ball up and lost it. So when I got it, my first question was naturally, who dropped it. It was then that I was informed the ball was hit. Not a commemorative baseball however and the Marlins hitters did not appear to be using any.

Ball #4 came shortly after from Sanchez. Urgelles was giving Sanchez pointers on the release point of a pitch and then he looked for a glove. He found mine and threw it. It was a Marlins commemorative baseball.

That was it for Marlins BP. I tried for a dugout toss up but it didn’t workout.

While I waited by the bullpen here were some pictures I took:

The slow moving, stupidity and just oblivious nature. This one’s for you.

I would get a fifth ball from Euclides Rojas which was a low toss up. He must have been in a good mood, because the other three balls he had were tossed up as well.

Another highlight was my buddy Randy Page/Big Yellow being on Baseball Quiz. He embarassed us all by stating the 1979 team was his favorite team only to pick a choice that was eliminated first.

He did take the box and would win a signed Kevin Correia jersey.

The Pirates made Randy wait a while though scoring four runs without registering a hit. Randy was “Bedarded” and any Pirates fan knows that’s a reference to Bedard taking forever among other things.

The Pirates would win and continue to be a hot team.

Lastly the thing that disgusts me today are “fans” who come to the game wearing Penguins or Steelers clothing. You are at a BASEBALL game. Please dress for the occasion or don’t come to the game. Better yet for all of us true fans, leave now so you are first in line for Steelers Training Camp which starts Wednesday.

Stop your whining

I’ll recap yesterday’s Marlins game later today, but for now I have something that I need to get off my chest.

Yes it is a fact that I get a lot of toss ups, but ballhawks need to accept and get over that. Do I get as many hit balls as I probably could? Likely not. Do I care? Not really, so please stop complaining about it.

Every tossup is a blessing for me, and as you all know every ball goes to charity, so does it get old, absolutely not so stop the sour grapes.

Also I am getting a degree in journalism, so quite a lot of my toss ups are because of this. Allow me to explain.

I am able to talk to players on a daily player and find common ground with a lot of them, and they choose to toss the baseballs up to me. These toss ups are more than a baseball to me, honestly it represents a conversation, a bond and a memory that I will remember. Just having some players take the time to talk to me, some of which are world class athletes or players I respect makes it awesome.

Yes a hit ball is hard to get, but all of these toss ups are hard to get as well. So to sum it up, I go for toss ups so much for these reasons: it helps raise money for a great cause, being able to talk to players which is always a cool experience, the memories I know it will leave.

So while a hit ball is great and I still go for those, I love the toss up because it is a great way to get a ball and interact with players.

I don’t have a glove trick and never will, I am not smart enough for one of those and I also run the risk of trying to get a ball on the field and have all kinds of balls go into the stands. I am stupid enough to take forever with a glove trick and considering how the Pirates seem to be anti glove trick, it is in my best interest not to have one.

So quit your whining about how I get my baseballs, you ballhawk how you want and leave me to ballhawk the way I enjoy.

Pirates vs Miami Marlins 7/20 PNC Park

I should have known better.

It started earlier in the week at work with a conversation.

“You know food prices are going to go up,” the worker asked me.

“No. Why,” was the honest reply back.

“Well it has been so hot and there has been no rain that the crops are going bad and that means food will be harder to come by,” she said.

I should have known that would be a precursor to the rain that would ensue the next three days, Wednesday’s batch I was involved in a hail storm without a hat, coat or umbrella.

So with the constant rain on Friday, it meant one thing no BP, and a lot of the ballhawks planned accordingly. Erik smartly went to Cleveland en route to a 10 ball day. If I was not working, I likely would have gone with him. Nick was texting me back and forth and smartly avoided this game of 186 games and counting as of prior to today’s game with one ball. Rick also skipped the game which was a smart call, although I wonder if he regrets not playing outside the park as he likely would have snagged Neil Walker’s game winning homer. Jim Saylor also sat it out leaving only three.

Only myself, Ian Weir and Robbie Sacunas were brave enough to ballhawk, knowing full well that there was almost no chance of BP. Of course we were right.

We were the only three to stand out and with the Pirates pitchers already in and having thrown and any possible easter eggs already confiscated, it was a lot of waiting and watching the Marlins few relievers throw. I was forced into the game as I worked and would be attending the last Pittsburgh Power game of the season. I had long odds as I had to leave PNC Park at 6 and with no BP or help in sight, it looked like my streak was finally over.

So I decided to take some pictures to pass some time.

Robbie, Myself and Ian

Well I guess the joke is on Tim Neverett and Bob Walk.

Tarp comes off the field. Likely could have come off around 4 PM.

I did pay close attention to the Marlins relievers as there were two kids and two adults that threw by us in left field. None of those balls would or should count as they are not players, coaches or employees, but whatever. Anyways, I kept my eye on the Marlins relievers as I said before and they took the balls on the middle of the field and tossed them to the ushers. I figured I would try and ask them for it but then I saw a lefty reliever, likely Michael Dunn, wind back and threw a ball onto the third deck. It was 5:20, so I tracked the section and waited a few minutes to make sure it wasn’t pocketed. None of the ushers saw it as they were cleaning it. I knew what I had to do.

So I went to the gate to go up to the 300 level and ran into ballhawks Quinn and Danny who made the trip. Poor Danny has come here twice on days where conditions were crappy and not optimal. We said quick hellos, but I was in save my skin mode at that point.

5:30 came and it was time to go. I knew I had to act quick as I was unsure if anyone else had seen the ball.

I immediately ran up and had a lead on any pursuer. It looked as though Quinn saw the ball as well and was a full staircase behind me, a comfortable margin. I am unsure if he gave up due to this deficit or if he got lost due to an unfamiliarity to the ballpark. Either way, as I continued speeding up the steps and being careful with the rain, I continued to look down occasionally, and saw I was the only one.

I immediately played guesswork with the section based on appearance. I gazed over the section and knew the area was right but could not find the baseball. Dang, I thought, an usher must have picked it up during the five minutes I was stuck waiting for the gate to open.

I was getting ready to leave the area when I decided to look one more section over as it had the same appearance from below.

I quick went up a few rows, saw this and smiled.

Would be the only ball of the day for me.

It wasn’t just any ball though, let’s get a close up on that:

Then I celebrated my catch with a few fist pumps. This was a huge snag and I knew my streak would continue.

Before leaving, I went to the seats and got a picture of this Pirates fan:

This fan was definitely aware of the trend. Has the Zoltan shirt, the infamous bubblewrap and the sign.

Lastly time for the thing that disgusts me about PNC Park. I will go with the yellow boots the grounds crew wears. It makes them look like first graders and they seem to struggle walking in them too. Just a mess and wearing those boots this season has meant either they or PNC Park operations has made a bad call about BP. Sorry… ok not really. Honesty is the best policy.

That was it for this crappy day. Back at it later today and the conditions are definitely much more encouraging.

Posing here hours later at the Power game with today’s output:

Pirates vs San Francisco Giants 7/6 PNC Park

As I said in the previous entry, this game was the only one in the series I attended for a variety of reasons. Still here are three more things that disgust me about PNC Park:

1. Erik Bedard’s super slow pace- I just hate how deliberate he is. Just throw the dang ball already. Considering how you have pitched ever since you left a start early, you could put it anywhere and it really won’t matter.

2. Zoltan being done incorrectly- Seriously, most Pirates fans are absolute morons. It is not right hand on top. Here is a tutorial that will satisfy even the newest Pirates fans.

3. Kids Day- I know the day is about the kids but it would help if they had some manners. “Here, here, here” is not going to get you a baseball, and crying is going to upset everyone around you. Oh and when you line up all the way around the stadium for running the bases, no one else can get anywhere. It is already tough enough to get around PNC Park sometimes. On a sunny day like a Kids Day, fans just want to get out of the ballpark after being in the sun for hours.

Now on to happier things.

Despite a heat index of 105, both teams took batting practice, which was awesome.

Ball #1 came from Gorkys Hernandez who fielded a ball at the wall. I asked him for the ball in Spanish and then got beisbol numero uno.

Ball #2 came during Giants BP from reliever Shane Loux. I should have had a ball earlier that was a cakewalk if I hadn’t been boxed out, but at least it was great to get on the board again. The Giants were pretty stingy with toss ups and when I initially asked Loux he said, “no they’re hitting too many out”. Undeterred I came by the third base side come 5:30 and when he fielded a ball close to me I shouted his name and fired a target. The throw was right on the money.

I then decided to test my luck at first base and ball #3 came from George Kontos. Good thing I had printed out a roster right before I left work (although the lack of ink made it hard to read). I was the only one who knew who he was and that’s a bonus.

The last ball was the routine toss up from Euclides Rojas, however it actually proved to be a bit difficult. Some moron fan kept interrupting my enjoyment of watching both starters warm up and then when Rojas tossed the ball, the guy tried to get in my way. I quickly adjusted and so did Rojas. Ball #4. It was the ball Erik Bedard used to warm up. Rojas picked it up after Bedard’s toss to the bag with the baseballs was long.

“Hey you got one,” an onlooker said.

“Yeah,” I said with a slight glare at the offender who tried to interfere with the snag.

Picture time:

Giants reliever Brad Penny signs autographs.

Both Colston who went to the game with me, and I got to pose with the Olympic torch, I guess this is the first time most of you get to see Colston.

Now we went for a change of pace and decided to eat at the Hall of Fame Club for dinner.

Our waiter’s name was Kevin, and just in case we wouldn’t remember, he gave us this.

This actually did come in handy later.

When it comes to ordering, I don’t turn down a Philly Cheesesteak much. I have consumed quite a few and am quite particular when it comes to how I like them. Of course I ordered the cheesesteak plain.

After a short while, our orders came out and they messed it up. I ended up needing the napkin Kevin wrote his name off for the first cheesesteak. The Pirates were winning this game and then once my order was messed up, they started to give back their lead. Coincidence? I think not.

When it came back out this was the result.

Now comes time for the grading:

– The steak was cooked well but I am not a fan of the steak being carmelized so I had to work through that.

– The cheese itself was very runny and not memorable.

– Bread was great and held the sandwhich together no problems.

If I had to rate it, I would give it a 6.75 out of 10. It lost a point for being cooked wrong, a point for the runny cheese, lost a little for camerlization and honestly it was average for me. That’s not a bad thing, I have particular tastes so what I may enjoy, someone else may hate. Hey it was fun analyzing the dish.

Meanwhile the Pirates lost, but still they are in first place as the second half begins.

I for one am excited to see the Pirates doing well and this club has much more potential than last year’s team did. Let’s Go Bucs, make us proud!

Pirates vs Houston Astros 7/3 & 7/5 PNC Park

We’re going to start with the things that disgust me about PNC Park first so I don’t forget. Despite it being two games I attended, it was three games, so you get three things that disgust me.

#1 is the America’s Past time video. The guy is so annoying and it is on every game with no variation. It admits we strikeout and the even when the Pirates lose it talks about coming off of a win. Even bringing back something like the battleship animation where at least the teams changed each series is fine. It almost makes me miss the Pirate on the jumbotron that had that cool intro.

#2 Spiderwebs by the bullpen area. For a park that is so huge on cleanliness, you would think the area right in front of command post would always be taken care of. Nope. A couple of series ago there was this big spiderweb. Add that to the bee problem and the clear bug problem and it is a little gross. I ate a couple of slices of Diamond Pizza and put the plate down for 10 minutes during a game and when I looked back down, the plate was full of bugs. I’m glad I finished that pizza.

#3 goes to the Hunt Auction area. I love collecting things in general, baseballs, media guides, programs, ticket stubs, whatever. Hunt Auctions is really the only place where as the commercial says you can take home a part of the game. Game used baseballs in cubes at $25 are rather reasonable but otherwise these prices are ridiculous. $100 for the Mother’s Day lineup card? $65 for a signed Clint Hurdle baseball? $100 for a signed McCutchen baseball? $425 for a signed Derek Jeter baseball? These prices need to be much more reasonable if you really want fans to feel a part of the game.

Tuesday was a downish day since there was no Pirates BP. Snagging opportunities were kind of gone until around 5:30 to begin with as the relievers are tired of tossing baseballs up to us ballhawks.

So I had some time to snap pictures and enjoy myself for a little bit.

Pirates starter Erik Bedard warming up in front of the new AGH banner in the bullpen.

Glad the Pirates had promotions or lineups on the jumbotron…. not

Luis Silverio’s son throwing

When 5:30 came, I got my first ball after the Silverio’s and Euclides Rojas were done throwing. I was on the third base side, and Rojas threw the ball. My glove was off for some reason and I had just beat Kansas City ballhawk Leiming down the steps despite not going as fast as I wanted. The catch was a barehanded one with my left hand for ball #1.

That sadly was it for BP on this day but at least I avoided the shutout which is easier said than done.

My day was not done yet though as I prepared for A.J. Burnett to do battle with Lucas Harrell.

Rojas would help me once more tossing another one up that I grabbed this time barehanded with my right hand. My hands were great today, I could have been on the Allstate All Hands Team today.

The Pirates won once again. Here are a few more pics:

What better way to cool down on a hot day?

Welcome back once again Chris!

You always have to respect the lifers.

7/5/12

It was once again very hot and I knew there would be BP as the Pirates were trying to go for the sweep, but with Carlos Lee gone to the Marlins, I expected both teams to have a tame BP.

I definitely was right on the Pirates end although I got a bit of help.

Euclides Rojas threw me either a duck or a slight knuckleball but no matter, it was ball #1 on the day.

Shortly after Herbie Andrade saw me at the wall and threw me ball #2.

That was it for me during Pirates BP as I have been working the foul pole lately in a change of strategy just to see different things.

At 5:30 I went over to the first base side where Wandy Rodriguez was throwing and when he was done he threw me ball #3. It was a little off but I was able to catch it.

Ball #4 involved a good amount of luck.

A guy was playing the spot I normally do and a batted ball bounced right to him. He had no glove and the ball deflected out of his hands right to me for career snag #350. Right place, right time and I of course gave him back the ball. He was grateful and let me play the spot although it didn’t work out for me.

I also ran into Javier Bracamonte again and went over my motion with him to his nods of approval.

Those were all of the baseballs I snagged at this game. Four has been the magic number for me lately.

Riverwalk fun

Then I saw a tweet from the Pirates that changed the night.

So after ballhawk Ian Weir got some food and generously got me a burger, we went up to the Bowtie Bar a couple of minutes later thinking the tickets were gone but figured it was worth a try.

Well…

So after a nice walk, here we were.

So a nice walk inside and we took in the surroundings.

Then we saw ballhawk Max win a BluRay

We stayed for the whole game which probably wasn’t a smart idea for me.

Why you ask, because I had to catch the T after and this was the wait on both sides.

Fortunately one came the shorter way and everyone flocked to it. I did not want to be a sardine so I waited and took the long way. At least I got to see Heinz Field.

The week wasn’t over though. I skipped Saturday and Sunday due to heat and activities but braves 105 degree heat index for Friday’s game against the Giants. How would I do? You’ll have to read the next entry to find out.

Pirates vs Astros 7/2 PNC Park

That Sunday Tigers game left a bad taste in my mouth and I knew I still needed four snags to achieve the most amount of baseballs snagged in my ballhawking career.

I was a little tired having covered the Constellation Senior Players Champions Tour major golf tournament in some intense heat from 6:15 AM- 8 PM both days and walking 36 holes and back and forth. Still, there was no way I was not giving this one a go.

My throwing on the bridge was not what I wanted, but my arm was mostly there.

Pirates BP started off interestingly for me. I was a few minutes late arriving to the gate and thus missed out at the chance for easter eggs.

Pirates BP was a bit more lively than it usually was and I paid the price.

I was pursuing a batted ball on a bounce and so was ballhawk Rick. We both dove for it and ended up misplaying it. Side of the leg got a little bruise but not a big deal. We apologized to each other and moved on.

Euclides Rojas saw the effort and a couple minutes later wound up and tossed a mid-range throw that was right on the money for ball #1. It has been awesome that Euclides has been helping me each day it is such a nice thing that he does for me.

Ball #2 also came during Pirates BP and was a batted ball that I beat everyone to the scrum for.

Pirates BP ended shortly after, and I knew that two was the magic number and it would have to happen during what normally is a mediocre Astros BP.

I was a bit more mobile during Astros BP trying to compensate for lack of gear and also for lack of pop. I was doing a lot of running at PNC on this day and feeling great about it.

The ballhawks spread out between various parts of the outfield come 5:30. I took advantage and stayed in left field. A batted ball by an Astros batter was hit decently. I knew it wasn’t a homer but also knew there was a good chance it would bounce. I tried to run over and in the process caught the ball off the bounce. It wasn’t a far run but a spur of the moment thing that just ended up working out. Ball #3.

I knew there was one ball left and with so many Astros players over on the right field side, I decided to head over there to try and get the new milestone and eclipse my previous single season ballhawking high.

Quickly I became bored, and decided to work on my pitching motion for a minute.

I shortly made contact with the Astros who somehow were bored enough to watch. Bullpen Catcher Javier Bracamonte looked at me and immediately made a motion for how he wanted me to throw the ball. So I tried again and got the same thing and started bettering it.

I asked him to come over by motioning with my hands, but he was adament at the spot he was at and nodding encouragement when I would look like I was doing it right.

From left: Wilton Lopez, Wandy Rodriguez and Javier Bracamonte

To make things even better, and Astros reliever I think Brandon Lyon had a ball hit to him and Bracamonte asked for the ball. He threw it to me for ball #4, the record breaker!

I wish I could say that the story was done there, but it was not.

Bracamonte had Lopez who is on the DL get in a catcher crouch. I knew what this meant, I was going to get to pitch to a Major Leaguer.

I will be honest, my first throw was a dead bouncing duck. It was terrible and I was not happy. This happened when I threw with Humberto Quintero briefly earlier this year although I had no issues with Matt Maloney last season.

I knew they would give me another shot and I flailed a throw in there with the new motion in for a strike. Once I got the monkey off my back, it was smooth sailing. I hit Lopez’s glove with some nice strikes and got some nods. I gave Lopez everything I had while keeping it in the zone.

Lopez called for the session to end after a couple minutes or so and let me keep the ball which was great. It was a great experience and I hope it happens again.

Regretfully, I do not have any video of any of this but I do have this photo I took after BP with myself and Wilton.

Thanks Wilton for making my day.

I then headed up to the concourse and finally got to look at the baseball. Well it looks like I was throwing around with this.

With all this excitement, I went over to the Budweiser Bowtie Bar and just started clicking the camera.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane. Looks like I found legendary PNC ballhawk Jim.

Then saw that the Andrew McCutchen t-shirts for the All-Star game were up.

After that and some great conversations, I had to leave PNC as I was covering summer league basketball in Greentree.

I went and got to see Steve Adams from Pitt.

Now to thing #4 that disgusts me about PNC Park. This one will not be popular.

It is the perogie race at PNC Park. First off, this has been at PNC Park for years and it is so boring. It was either watch a video and have them run or just running around the warning track to the most annoying hillbilly song ever.

Fans seem to care more about the race than the actual game itself and that makes it impossible. On top of that, many fans gamble on who will win the race. I can only imagine what Mrs. T’s pay a year for the Pirates to do this, but enough is enough, it is just so annoying.

Speaking of annoying, the game the next day would be one of those days as Clint Hurdle had the players come in when season ticket holders were to enter at 4:30 leading to a lot of not so pleased ballhawks. How would I do on that game as well as Thursday, well read the next entry to find out.

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