October 2012

Pirates vs Reds 9/28-9/30 PNC Park

The return of some images could make this a more fun although the entry will already be long if all goes according to plan.

First before I get into the games. Here are some pics from earlier in the month.

1. During a BP earlier in the month, the sprinklers came on in the infield. A few of the pitchers cheered and it was just a funny thing to watch.

Has this ever happened at your ballpark during BP?

2. 200th baseball

Here I am with baseball #200 on the season.

3. What? Clint Hurdle looks a little too excited here

4. In the final game of the Milwaukee series I found out it was PNC ballhawk Jim Saylor’s last game of the season so I had to take a picture with him.

9/28

I was pumped coming into this series knowing I needed one snag to reach my season goal and obviously an additional baseball to surpass it.

I ran into the ballpark first and thought I saw a baseball coming around the corner but it was a mirage.

I then saw Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan and said hello and he said a ‘hi Zac’ to me.

I decided to start off the game with a different strategy staying closer to the bullpen instead of far left field.

Immediately I saw Joel Hanrahan chasing down a baseball and then he looked up and saw me clearly getting the baseball if he didn’t get it. He pulled up and the ball went over to the fence where I beat ballhawk Ian Weir for ball #1 and the goal was officially met. Thanks Joel, it was especially great to reach my goal because it was you who helped me out.

That would sadly be it for Pirates BP and technically Pirates baseball, but more on that later.

During Reds BP I saw Todd Frazier in left field. He tossed the ball way low and my re-strained back failed to reach it. Todd Frazier made like Chris Berman and the Monday Night Countdown crew and let out a ‘come on man’ before re-tossing it to me, giving me ball #2. Frazier would then run in to take his cuts.

This is the same Frazier that saved a life earlier in the season, and I guess he saved my ballhawking life for the day as my head was back in the game. Now I was at 209 snags on the season which meant I had surpassed my goal.

I thought I saw a ball on the third base line at 5:30 and I was first over in the tunnel so that was ball #3.

I then played the first base side and there were two cute kids next to me and it was the final hitting group so Miguel Cairo was playing the first base line and he tossed me balls #4 and 5 in a 10 minute period to give to the kids. One required a back hand reach up much like a first baseman scooping up a short hop.

Ball #6 was the final snag of the day and it was of course from the man Euclides Rojas.

As for the game. I honestly was unaware that Homer Bailey was in the process of a no-hitter. I was in the Hall of Fame Club getting my picture taken with former American Idol contestant Scott MacIntyre.

The no-hitter itself wasn’t surprising. Justin Verlander should have no-hit this team in May and this was karma. Plus Bailey had two shutouts before this no-no. I was pleased to witness that no-hitter and wish him and the Reds well in the playoffs, what an accomplishment to see in person.

Now I am going to switch it up. For each game, I will link up a youtube video of a song that us ballhawks hear in BP. Here is one right now [profanity is in this video]

9/29

I was at Point Park all morning and early afternoon covering volleyball for my school paper and now I needed a little bit of food to pump me up for ballhawking.

What I did not say in the previous entry was that my right leg was in real pain. While pursuing a ball in BP I banged my right knee cap really hard off the edge of a bleacher. Three years ago, that knee cap actually required physical therapy and I felt this pain for the rest of the homestand as because of the PT it takes longer for an injury there to heal.

Any ways, I was ready to eat but not too much so here was what I went with.

Now I was ready. I struggled through a throwing session trying to put weight on my knee when throwing and it was not that great on my end, but at least it wasn’t harming my running.

I searched first for easter eggs in left field and came up empty. I knew that was my last chance to play first base so I took advantage but the run to first base was a little slower than normal.

On my jog, I saw Neal Huntington by the Pirates clubhouse. He has had a tough end of the season as the media blew his comment dumbing down the fans out of proportion. I was tempted to say a few words but with Erik Jabs in front of me, I could not.

Thru two Pirates groups, I was seriously questioning my decision. Hishinori Takahashi’s translator was in right and he is not fan friendly with baseballs so I rolled my eyes as some annoying old grumpy man continued talking to himself and continued to be a pain in the ass as he has been all season.

Finally, Jose Tabata hit a one hopper that I was able to easily catch in my glove for ball #1.

I then got another ball hit that was well over my head and between myself and Scrooge. The race was on and I was not letting that scumbag get that ball, so I got it for ball #2.

Things then got a bit easier for me as the Reds came out and Todd Frazier mixed it up with me as we both laughed. He is such a cool guy, the kind of guy you would want to take a drink with.

Mat Latos came out and threw with one of the two Reds bullpen catchers. He randomly dropped a ball that rolled closer to the wheelchair area. I eyed it for a minute before the duh factor set it. I took a look at it and then asked the coach if they needed it. No was the response. Easy ball #3.

Latos then went back pretty deep on his throwing, probably right by the warning track or at least the very far grass and threw the ball as hard as he could. I could immediately tell it was going over the bullpen catcher’s head. I gauged where it was going to land and I was right. I was in the general area right before the barrier on the wheelchair section and made the catch. It was the hardest ball I have ever caught. I felt nothing. The bullpen catcher asked for it back and I gave it back. Ball #4.

Ballhawks Erik and Robbie then came up and I got ball #5 from an usher I befriended last year. We tried together to get Homer Bailey’s attention but he never responded.

Balls #6-8 went this way. Six was a toss up from an unidentified Red on the first base side. Ball #7 was hit shortly after on the first base side. Eight was a hit ball in center field.

That was it for BP, but I still had a chance to get double digits and I knew it.

Ball #9 came from Herbie Andrade. He played his usual trick of tossing up the ball high enough to make fans go for it but low enough that they wouldn’t get it. He tossed the baseball right to me.

Double digits became a reality as Kyle McPherson tossed up his baseball right after warming up.

In short, I love when the Reds come to town, especially weekends. Double digits happen.

Captain Morgan was also in attendance for the game taking pics with fans. Since I am not 21 yet, I asked if I could just take a pic of him and he was game and appreciated my honesty.

Last thing for this entry is another PNC Park BP song.

9/30

This was a Sunday game but it was Fan Appreciation Day and a chance to take pictures with the players.

Despite many delays where I live due to The Great Race, I got to the ballpark about 20 minutes before it opened.

Now about the pictures. The bandwagoners were in full force and the whole thing was horribly organized, but I still got a few pics.

This is what happens when I smell cigars. Can’t stand that smell.

Now onto the player pictures:

He immediately asked if I could come to the next day’s game and I couldn’t. Still we caught up and I thanked him for the help he gave me.

Good ole Chris Leroux. Oh and my backpack is on because things were so cramped and there were no organized lines. Leroux was great for me this year. It was because of him that I got my snagging record earlier this season.

By the way, Leroux took that pic himself. Then much like Evan Meek he goes, “have you met Chad Qualls” [Meek said Daniel McCutchen]. We shook hands and got this picture.

If I didn’t get a picture with Euclides Rojas then something would have been wrong. Gregg Ritchie to the right, resigned as Pirates hitting coach to accept the manager’s job at George Washington.

All of the Pirates arrived late and most left early. Jason Grilli stayed the full time for the fans. He had a rough finish to the season but I wanted him to know the true fans still have his back and I hope to see him in a Pirates uniform next season.

I would get one baseball from Rojas at this game. Here are a couple more pictures.

I just think the Luis Tiant part of his delivery is awesome.

Lunch

Pretty much sums up the Pirates season.

Here is the BP song:

That is just about it for this entry, although there were still two Braves games for me before the season and possibly my ballhawking career came to a close. How would I do, you’ll have to see to find out.

PNC Park Field Days 2012

Have you ever wanted to feel like a Major League player? Well the Pirates try to give their season ticket holders an idea of that experience with their field days.

Each year fans get to hit on the field, snag fly balls and throw on the very field the Pirates use for 81 games a season.

I have done this for three years now and again if I have my way this sadly will be the last time.

Of course I brought my friend Colston as always to the event.

From about a month before the event, I stepped up my workouts as I had a specific goal in mind – get the ball out of the infield on the fly. Last year, I hit a couple or so grounders out of the infield, but that was not good enough.

I had a nice lifting session right before heading down. We headed down with caution though as we hit on Friday, the day there was a hostage situation right by my Point Park campus. I was right on campus and very close to this. The area was mostly closed off. I will spare you the details and give you the link if you want to find out more:

http://www.wtae.com/news/local/allegheny/Gateway-Center-hostage-situation-ends-peacefully-in-downtown-Pittsburgh/-/10927008/16687840/-/4517giz/-/index.html

I was okay and safe the whole time, although the Point Park gym had both TV’s in the room I mainly worked out in tuned in for coverage on it.

Once I was done with my workout, I met with Colston and headed straight down to the ballpark.

Upon getting to the ballpark, I saw that fellow ballhawks Ian and Rick would be at the session as well which was great.

Rick and Ian would start out throwing in left which meant they hit last. I would field the fly balls in right field which meant my group hit second.

Last year even while sick the flyball machine was a piece of cake. This year it actually was a challenge and I struggled with a couple of them.

It was then off to the hitting. I had done a lot of promising and now it was time to put up or shutup.

Looking back at the video, I can see how bad my stance was and it usually is never that bad but here is the video to show you if I made my goal.

In short I made it despite a really messed up swing. Still the video is worth watching and I was pleased to reach my goal.

Colston had his struggles in the cages missing everything but it’s tough when the pitches were all over the place.

I then went into left field to throw with Colston. When it finally got to the jumping the fence to rob the balls, I got the first one but then Colston severly misfired and that was the end of that ball. Oh well.

I then played shallowish left and of course my first throw to where the balls are usually thrown was too strong [whoops I guess I lifted too much].

My one regret is not playing much deeper left. A season ticket holder hit a deep fly ball that just cleared the fence. I could have easily brought that back. Oh well, congrats to him.

Also Ian missed everything in my session and Rick’s power looked like Jose Tabata’s BP, then again Tabata is [somehow] a major leaguer, so there’s that. They would hit again in the next two hour session.

After all was said and done, everyone then went up for lunch, and I had a hamburger, ice cream and some chips while talking to Ian, Rick and Baseball Joe.

It was a great time, although I wish the Pirates had brought back the former players to interact with the fans.

Also in case you wanted to know, the baseballs were training balls, [whether or not they were from the Washington Nationals is anybody’s guess]. Training balls are much harder to hit.

Still the positives outweighed the negatives and it was fun.

Pirates vs Milwaukee Brewers 9/19 & 9/20

9/19

You never know what to expect from the Brewers but after another 10 days or so, I knew what to expect from the Pirates. Another lackluster BP.

Still I was three snags away from reaching my goal for the season.

I started out in center field and after about 10 minutes got one of the friendliest players Livan Hernandez to throw me a ball by asking in Spanish. Two Pirates fans were halfway over in front row and watched in shock as I put the finishing touches on my first snag of the day. Muchas gracias Livan!

I then searched for an empty area and ran over to the hot corner, third base by the tunnel to play grounders that could bounce over. I knew my speed could get to a ball before anyone.

I saw a yinzer fan in the front with a red coat on guarding the front spot with a glove, but knew he had no ability so I stood my ground, one section over and waited.

Another 10 minutes later, an unidentified Brewers batter hit a ball. It was not going to get to my section but I knew the man had no shot. The ball bounced over the man and into the tunnel. I recklessly hoped over the baracade and sprinted thru the tunnel while the guy was still trying to react. I picked up the ball easily and came out of the tunnel indifferent just as the man was walking in. No competition. Ball #2. Wish it was always that easy.

That would be it for BP so I set up shop by the bullpen. Kyle McPherson was making his first PNC Park start and after he finished warming up, he tossed me up ball #3 to end my night. Thanks Kyle!

9/20

Just one ball in this game, a Euclides Rojas toss up. I came late due to school and PNC Park’s stupid gate opening rule for afternoon games. I mean who lets their fans in for half an hour and then assentially puts them on house arrest by confining them to the riverwalk for 1/2 an hour. You open everything, you may have an increased profit [aka $].

So the fans were not even able to come in for an abbreviated Pirates BP and then the Brewers cut their session very short to add to the fact that their pitchers are stingy with toss ups.

If I am not a season ticket holder, it will dates such as this that I will not miss in the least. Get it right.

Pirates vs Chicago Cubs 9/7 & 9/8

9/7

After what seemed like an enternite was around 10 days before the next homestand and it was the Chicago Cubs. You get what you get with the Cubs and it seems to change from day to day BP wise. At least I remember the last time the Cubs came to PNC Park when I got autographs from Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano and I think Ian Weir remembers too.

But I had to focus on this game where of course the Pirates could not muster much out once again. I was beyond ready for the Cubs.

It was a good sign that Tony Campana was out in left field. The guy flat out hustles and often his momentum will carry him to the warning track leading to a toss up. I had the right idea but the wrong person.

My first ball came from Chapman – Jaye Chapman, formerly an Atlanta Braves on a toss up. He saw what he needed to say and tossed the ball up.

That put me at 199 baseballs on the season. I then looked over to the bullpen and saw exactly how I was going to get ball #200, but it would take a little time.

I saw catcher Wellington Castillo and coach Mike Borzello [former Yankees bullpen catcher]. At PNC Park before, Borzello was stiff and has tossed nothing up. I wanted to change that and break the unbreakable coach.

Five minutes later I made my move,

“Mr. Borzello, any chance for that baseball please,” I asked.

“Sure, no problem,” he responded.

Ball #200 on the season, thanks Mike!

Ball #3 actually came from a security guard which was cool. I was on the first base side and he tossed it up. That’s cool, I have never had that happen before.

That was it for the day as I left right after BP.

9/8

I was on a time limit for this one. It was my dad’s birthday and it wasn’t fair to him to keep him waiting. I also was quite under the weather so it was a gamble coming to the ballpark as I felt terrible.

I knew right away to make the jog to first base and just stay there to provide less stress on my body. Too much running would just have put my body over the edge.

Well one thing stopped me, my buddy Euclides Rojas. He saw me and flamed a ball right to the wall. Knowing what he was doing since he’s done it so many times, I fake acted scared before he threw me ball #1.

First base would not pay off at all. Bullpen catcher Andrew Lane I think ratted me out to half of the Cubs bullpen as I saw them all looking at me. I was in Pirates gear. The only other ball I got was a hit Alfonso Soriano ball [ball #2]. Lane looked disgusted and knowing I would not see him again, I held the ball up to say, even you can’t stop me.

Oh well, you win some you lose some and I got the last laugh.

That would be it for the Cubs series and I was ok with the performance considering my illness, I was just disappointed that I didn’t clean up like I normally did on Saturday games but at least it wasn’t a 4:05 game, plus now I was comfortably over 200 baseballs and close to that 208 baseball goal I had set for the beginning of the season.

Pirates vs St. Louis Cardinals 8/28 PNC Park

This one will be a quick one as I need to catch up on everything.

The Pirates were smack dab in the middle of a collapse and as a whole, the collapse has been a true shame. Despite the whole clothes thing during BP, I really do love this Pirates team and wish nothing but the best for them.

I had a law class at 6 pm so I knew pickings would be quite slim and for all of Pirates BP, I got shut out once again as their bats disappointed.

The Cardinals are very stingy with toss ups despite my obvious efforts and I just couldn’t get a hit ball but there was no way I was going to be denied before I left.

I intended to leave at 5:40 but of course I was still without a baseball. At 5:43, I convinced the normally stingy Kyle Lohse to toss me up the baseball [thanks Kyle :)] he had finished throwing with Joe Kelly. Ball #1 and I made it to class right at 6 PM.

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