August 2012

Pirates vs Milwaukee Brewers 8/26 PNC Park

Odds of a shutout were high as it was PhotoFest day. This year it would be on the field. Thanks to the Pirates advertising the heck out of it, it was packed. Fortunately, I had someone save me a spot, so I was good to go.

I will start with the snags since I will be posting a lot of pictures and don’t want this to be overlooked.

1. Euclides Rojas toss.

2. Lee Tunnel toss up by dugout. Tunnel is a former Pirate and now Brewers Bullpen Coach. Tunnel replaced Stan Kyles whom was hated by Pittsburgh ballhawks.

Now onto PhotoFest.

Randy “Big Yellow” Page, raced up the steps, and was going down the steps to section 108. The race was on, and I caught up to him which was awesome. Together we along with Colston set up shop on the third base side where we watched Jason Grilli and Chris Resop throw.

Every player/coach besides Jeff Karstens, that day’s starter would come out all at once in groups of three.

At first the idea was for us to be secluded on the dirt while the players/coaches stood on the grass and pose for pictures just the three of them. Lame. That soon changed.

Here are reliever Chad Quall’s thoughts on the format.

Now to the good stuff:

My first picture was with Starling Marte.

Got the #Partay started with Starling and the ice was broken.

Next up is my favorite, Euclides Rojas. Since he has been hired with the Pirates last season, he has been awesome helping out myself and my charity. He always waves to me with a smile on his face and makes sure I am doing okay. This little thing he does always makes my day, and I always let him know my appreciation.

[caption id="attachment_2197949" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Say hey for the J-Hay kid. He’s always smiling.

He must have been happy to see me.[/caption]

“Hey, Zac right,” came the question from one Jared Hughes. He remembered me talking to him at Bowling With the Bucs and when I interviewed him earlier in the season. I had come prepared and I think I surprised him. We caught for a minute or two before he asked if I wanted a picture.

The person that talked longest to me was bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade. He always has been great to us ballhawks and we had a nice conversation. His trademark of calling me along with everyone else Papi is great, so we said our hellos in Spanish. It was likely a few minutes conversation where he motivated me to continue my workouts and pushing myself. I missed getting a picture with Neil Walker because of this, but it was well worth it.

Before this though in-game entertainment man and friend of mine Joe Klimchak had told me he would interview me and I said hello to him and he came right over.

I interviewed with him for about two minutes and he later told me it was great because everyone else was giving him one word answers. The people next to me were surprised how calm I was and that I knew just what to say.

It is awesome, and if I make the final cut, I will pass along the link to the video.

Since coming to Point Park, I have felt much more comfortable being on camera and I feel I handled it pretty well.

Now time for more pictures.

There were big signs saying no autographs, but Resop was the most active signer. Anyone that wanted something signed, he accomodated.

Bowling buddies reunited. I put up the x for the strikes, or lack there of that we got. I won our lane, but it wasn’t pretty.

He was told to only take group shots. So after the last pic you saw in the previous entry, he posed just with me.

Best smile on the Pirates. Many say he should be the starting catcher.

I told him I was to stupid to take the picture myself. He said I’m not that stupid. Dry humor.

Joel said hello to me by name as well which is awesome. I meant to ask him if that was him that threw me those two balls I could not count when I had a press credential. I ended up giving the balls to Dodgers Bullpen Coach Ken Howell. Oh well, I will ask him sometime.

That was really it, and perhaps it was the fan’s spirit that allowed the Pirates to win.

Pirates vs Milwaukee Brewers 8/24 PNC Park

The Brewers came to PNC Park for the first time time this season, and they are always an interesting draw.

This right here may be why the Pirates lost this game:

That is former Pirate Sid Bream. He slid in safe as an Atlanta Brave in 1992 to eliminate the Pirates, and the team has not had a winning season since. Bream was the celebrity bartender for the night, but many of the fans in the city booed him. Bream is a very nice guy, so I felt very bad for him that the fans treated him so terribly.

Now I will rewind to the game.

I was looking forward to this game all week. I have been working out non-stop all week and I was beyond ready to go. I started throwing outside, and I had a rhythm I had not felt all season. My throws were faster and more accurate than in recent memory and it was a great feeling.

I took that momentum inside where immediately I saw hitting drills. Luis Silverio was hitting balls to Travis Snyder. One was overhit and I gauged it. Against my body, I reached my glove up high and came up with a clean catch for ball #1. I gave Snider the ball back and he tossed it back in.

Ball number two came from Euclides Rojas. I saw ballhawks start to creep towards the front row, so I moved back to stand out and boom.

The Milwaukee Brewers were stingy during BP, but I managed to convince reliever Jim Henderson to throw me a ball, which I will take.

There was some uncertainty, as the other ballhawks thought John Axford was in left field, but that was not the case. I was not sure, so I did not say anything. It didn’t matter much, because the guy got sent down the next day.

That was sadly it for Brewers BP.

Ball #4 would come before the game. Herbie Andrade did his toss the ball up so no one can reach it, but make it high enough to make it appear they can catch it gag. He saw me and threw it a bit higher so I could catch the ball. People appeared confused. The end.

Again the Pirates lost the game which stunk, but they let all of these clubs score first and playing catch up all of the time is not going to win you games.

I knew the next day there wouldn’t be BP as there was team photofest. I had already eclipsed 100 straight games with a baseball, so I just embraced photofest wanting to talk to the players, so I went on the field and snapped some pictures. What I had forgotten from the night before, was that I needed to snag one baseball on this day to get 100 straight games with a baseball at your home ballpark. No pressure.

Here is a tease for the next entry:

We were in the area where Andrew McCutchen came last. Someone shouted single shots only. Big Yellow Randy Page took this picture as it was as close as he got after a brief groove. It got me talking to Cutch.

Pirates vs Los Angeles Dodgers 8/13 and 8/15 PNC Park

I knew going into the series the Dodgers were stingy with toss ups. I knew though that I would be okay. My back was improved.

I am not going to waste time. I got my usual Euclides Rojas toss up and five minutes later got a Herbie Andrade toss up. He randomly tossed the ball up but low enough that no one could catch it. He saw me and lobbed it up for me to get. Balls 1 and 2 of the day.

I got a Shane Victorino signed baseball on this day that is up for bids for charity. All proceeds will go to The Children’s Institute.

I was at the August 14th game, but as a media member therefore the four baseballs that came my way did not count and were given to Dodgers players/coaches as there was no BP due to rain earlier in the day.

I was a fan once again the next day and it worked in a big way.

Luis Silverio was hitting balls to Starling Marte and a ball was well out of the reach and just over the left field wall for Marte and I made the catch for ball #1 on the day. Marte did not want the ball. I wish Marte well, it is a shame he is on the 15 day DL and hopefully we see him back soon, Jose Tabata is reminding me why I hate the way he has played this season.

Ball #2 came on a batted ball that I ran and got to first.

All of a sudden, I heard a pounding and saw Erik Bedard pitching in the bullpen and getting a side session. No one was over there and Pirates BP is a risk in itself so I went right up there.

Fortunately for me, he was just ending his session so three pitches later, I was underhanded my third snag of the day.

Ball #4 came during Dodgers BP from closer Kenley Jansen. I wished I had asked in Dutch but I was in right field and just went for it/got it.

Ball #5 came on a hit ball to right field. I got there in a scrum. Maybe I will try right field more now, I did well there.

That was it for my series and I am looking forward to the Brewers coming to PNC for the first time this season on Friday.

Pirates vs San Diego Padres 8/10 & 8/11 PNC Park

The Padres are terrible at BP and horrible at Petco Park but going into the series had the Pirates number and would of course take two of three.

Just when you mix these two teams, you get an ugh BP. For those who don’t know, ugh is mediocre or terrible in this sense.

Ball #1 would come when Mark Strittmatter tossed me a baseball. He literally was talking to ballhawk Erik and a couple of minutes later looked at me and had his a-ha moment and tossed me one. Thanks as always Mark. It stinks that I don’t get to see him much during BP and seldom at the bullpen anymore.

Ball #2 wouldn’t come until Padres BP when once again I was on the first base line. A foul ball was hit and I just got to the scrum first. I immediately gave the ball to the other guy who tried going for the ball.

Ball #3 came from Euclides Rojas by the bullpen.

Pirates lose

8/11

I actually missed BP and based on what I have heard, I could have had five or six baseballs. Why did I miss BP? I went to Scally’s with Colston and played 18 holes. I also will be the beat writer once school starts for Point Park Volleyball, so I wanted to support them and get the ball rolling early, in fact I will be at their practice later today so I can get writing and start open lines of communication.

That to me was much more important than any BP, as I have told many people that I intend on making this my last season of full fledged ballhawking. I want to focus on my interests in the future and do something journalistically.

I would get one ball in this game from Euclides Rojas, who is the best.

Padres win.

Now my review of Skyblast:

Styx- My dad got me into Styx and I have to say they were better the last time. They sang greatest hits of course and it was a very similar set list to the last concert. They again started with “Blue Collar Man” and ended with “Renegade”. It was predictable but still enjoyable.

Fireworks- Same old same old, but went off no problem.

PNC Music- Fail. Skyblasts always have fireworks which play with random music of the same genre. The sound system was spotty during the second set of fireworks and at one point completely went out leading to bare fireworks and confusion. To boot, Tommy Shaw, the most known member of Styx was trying to say something to the fans and we could only hear the second half of what he said. They had two full songs to fix it and no luck.

Pirates vs Arizona Diamondbacks 8/8 PNC Park

Frankly, I was glad the Diamondbacks were leaving. NL West teams are not great with toss ups, and having to deal with three of them in a row has put a damper on things for sure.

Speaking of damper, I had some bad breaks and bounces during Pirates BP, but Euclides Rojas turned the frown upside down at the end of BP.

He threw me a ball that was falling short, and I adjusted the glove to make the catch for ball number 1.

At 5:30 I decided to play right field with the strategy of asking Takashi Saito for a baseball in Japanese, but that never needed to happen. A batted ball landed in section 142 and it was an easy scrum for me. Ball #2.

I then stayed over on the first baseline hoping for some success and just like the previous game a screamer came my way. Fans who were not expected it retreated back a little bit, and just like yesterday I kept my position and made the snag for ball #3.

I then looked at my surroundings and saw a fan close behind where I was with his hands protecting his face.

I then saw Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz point his glove in my direction for a good half minute. He thought it was a great snag, but then putting two and two together, I had quite possibly saved the fan from a serious injury. It was a great feeling to do that and to have Putz see that, have the fans applaud and compliment me was a nice feeling.

That was it for the game, and yes my computer is not cooperating, so just text in these entries for now.

Pirates vs Arizona Diamondbacks 8/7 PNC Park

My back was improved on this day which was a great sign.

Because of the nature of the injury, I had to cut my already infrequent visits to the gym to train until the back improved. I had off work on this day, so I tried to get a 30 minute workout before I headed out to the game.

I was able to get my running in which was a great sign. I also got all of my lifting in with less break time in and had no issues. I have an extensive core workout that I cut out due to the back, but I was ready for this game.

I headed to the bridge, put on the headphones and got to throwing on the bridge and was met with mixed results.

I was more than physically and mentally ready following those two workouts.

Pirates BP was slow and of course there were season ticket holdlers by the North Side Notch, which meant all balls were pocketed and a few opportunities would be gone.

I actually played closer to the middle portion of left field on this day.

I would run back over to my spot on a ball that landed on the warning track.

Rod Barajas was slowly walking to the ball and I was the only one with a glove and thus he under-handed it to me for ball #1.

This was a big snag, as I was the first mygameballs.com member to snag a Barajas toss up all season. He did toss up a ball during Spring Training earlier this season, but we see Barajas for maybe 10 minutes during BP stay in left field. That was the first ball I think I ever saw him walk to get and that was only because another player got another ball close by.

Toward the end of Pirates BP, a ball was hit and Erik Bedard was unable to get it. It took a bounce back towards the field and another fortunate bounce right into my glove for ball #2.

Meanwhile, ballhawk Ian and I were making fun of some of the PNC Park music, including:

That was it for Pirates BP.

When 5:30 came I went into centerfield and was able to get a toss up from reliever Mike Zagurski.

Oh if you want an assignment, google image Mike Zagurski and then google image PGA Tour golfer Jason Dufner. Zagurski looks like a chubbier version. They actually look somewhat alike, and it cracks me up. Either way Zagurski heard me say please and thus the toss up for ball #3.

I then played the first base side where I ran into ballhawk Rick.

I got set and two minutes later, a screaming line drive is coming my way. It takes a bounce that I have measured perfectly and it goes right into my glove for ball #4. Rick who had the play backed up seemed impressed. I inspected the ball, pocketed it and moved on.

I tried the dugout after BP was over and it didn’t work out.

I then went to the bullpen where Michael McKenry was the starting catcher. He did this catching drill with Euclides Rojas, who waved at me and then tossed me a ball after the drill for ball #5.

That was it on this day but I have two more things to add on the Monday game entry.

The first refers to the clean catch I had during BP. Herbie Andrade came into the bullpen looked at me and said, “you caught one”. Yeah…

The second is this video of Erik Bedard warming up for his Monday start against the Diamondbacks. There were children on the ledge so it was tough to shoot:

I will have pictures up for both entries once the computer acts right again.

Pirates vs Arizona Diamondbacks 8/6 PNC Park

This game was a risk on my part.

I have been ballhawking all season with a less than cooperative back and it was hurting worse than before. I already have had one incident where I literally had to rest it for a week. At that time, I was finishing up my sophomore year of college and I was in the gym everyday, so it was truly crushing.

One wrong move in the gym and it was back to square one once again. So I may have just as I typed this recovered from the injury. That’s three weeks.

Still I was at work today with massive limitations and I had to use the same limitations at the game. My speed was fine but on a hot day, my back was especially stiff to add to everything, so it was miserable.

Thank goodness I had some heating thing I put all over my back to help me make it. It took a lot of effort to make it through work and ballhawking.

Oh the bridge throwing was fun too. I threw my fastest and most consistent of the season which was weird. I had the headphones in the ear. I guess it pumped me up, or it was just a nice change from the repetitive PNC Park music.

I would run in and of course find nothing easter egg wise.

Due to the injury, I knew to limit my bursts and I went over to the foul pole as I figured that would be the best move for me.

It was a slow BP for me but I stood my ground and all of a sudden Gaby Sanchez got a hold of a pitch.

Of course the sun immediately was shining as the ball came straight to me. I tracked it perfectly and the ball felt great in the glove. It was just like returning a throw during the throwing session.

The ballhawks all threw their arms up as they never see me catch hit balls. I sarcastically pointed to the heavens. Herbie Andrade may have been the most shocked of all. I had a brief smile on my face, but then it was time to move on.

Of course it was Pirates BP, so I probably should have just kept smiling, yucking it up and dancing around. I would have done the dougie, but it never came on (Robbie “Scoonz” shoutout here).

Before BP was over, Euclides Rojas would toss me ball #2.

Diamondbacks BP stunk for me and Josh Collmenter was not tossing anything up. I went over to the first base side, but got nothing out of it.

I also did not get any toss ups.

I left shortly after to keep the stamina up and rest the back.

7/24 Pirates vs Chicago Cubs PNC Park

After all of the fun Monday night going into the wee hours of the morning of this game, I got a couple hours of sleep and then went to work.

I would meet up with my friend Zean around first pitch, but obviously first thing was first.

I went into the ballpark and proceeded to again stink up the joint in Pirates BP. Story of my life. Oh well, things happen.

I would not get shut down completely though thanks indirectly to an unlikely source in Juan Cruz. Cruz has been injured since the middle of July and he threw an onfield session of 25 pitches on two ocassions. He was throwing to a Pirates trainer with Euclides Rojas watching. I was the only one watching the session and when they continued throwing during BP, I was rewarded with ball #1.

The Cubs took a little while before BP and then got it going.

I relied on Tony Campana who promised me a ball and underhanded it right to me a few minutes later to get ball number two.

I then went to center field where I quickly ID’d former Red Sox pitcher Justin Germano and seemed to be the only one who knew who he was since the Cubs don’t have names on the back of their BP jerseys. He would toss me ball #3.

The Pirates would lose the game though due to Paul Maholm dealing in one of his final starts as a Cub.

Random pic time:

7/23 Pirates vs Chicago Cubs PNC Park

Never have I been this indifferent at a ballgame. I arrived late and thus had no time to stretch or throw. I had no reason to be fired up and it showed.

I was involved in a couple of scrums and just pulled up and shrugged my shoulder. James Russell, the lefty Cubs reliever helped me avoid the shutout by tossing me a ball and frankly that was it.

I also apparently had a Joel Hanrahan chin-stache from Spring Training according to some of the ballhawks. Oh well.

I was going to leave early but ran into fellow ballhawks Ian and Rick. I decided to stay with them to chase autographs for charity.

I started in the visitor entrance area to the ballpark. Right away, my targets Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano bolted without signing anything.

I was able to get James McDonald on the baseball I snagged earlier.

The three of us then went to the hotel.

We were able to see the Cubs come off the bus, but none of the players we wanted signed so we waited.

We would get Bryan LaHair who signed for all three of us.

Anthony Rizzo came into the hotel earlier and I went in with Ian for a minute, just to get his autograph. We made eye contact and he was reaching to take my baseball, but the security guard kicked us out. Great. I could have went the charity route or played dumb until he was finished signing, but at the spur of the moment, being indifferent, I just went outside.

The security guard then tried to bully again, but we held our ground despite his taunting after his shift ended five minutes later. Good riddence.

Finally around half an hour later, Soriano and Castro came out. Rick was waiting for “the perfect moment” but almost let them walk past.

Finally one of us spoke up. Soriano asked how many he had to sign and when he heard three, he stopped.

As he signed my baseball, I heard in a thick Dominican accent, “I feel so close to you right now…”. I immediately realized what he was trying to do and finished the lyric to the song, “Feel So Close” by Calvin Harris.

“Hey you got it,” He said.

I then managed to get him to sign for myself and Rick.

Ian wasn’t with it and when he realized it he ran across the street and halfway down the block for Castro. I cannot repeat what Soriano said when he saw him.

So unfortunately I only had one baseball with me, but it was still cool to get Castro, Soriano, LaHair and McDonald on a baseball.

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