Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Pirates vs Los Angeles Dodgers 5/10 PNC Park

 I was the second person to arrive at this game behind Baseball Joe. He was happy to see me, and I was happy to see the sun, although that was short lived. I felt like I was going to die, just throwing the ball around with Joe. I have been used to rain and the sun completely wore on my body and I literally had to seek indoor shelter for a little while after getting my tickets. I was sweating massively and thought I was going to get dehydrated even though I was regularly drinking water.

 Still the throwing session went well. I was catching a lot of baseballs that I previously had trouble with were going in my glove and throwing from a crouched position also went well.

 I went in second to the gate, and breezed past Joe, and with Erik and Nick behind started searching the first deck in left and found nothing. Nothing was in the second deck, which I did check as well.

 Pirates batting practice was even more frustrating than before, two baseballs which should have been mine were not. One of which came from the glove of Ross Ohlendorf. He was throwing lefty but was still accurate. I called to him, and it came my way, but with Jim behind me, he yanked my arm in a different direction while he came up with it. I was not happy, but he told me after that he thought I was the baseball and he has very recently had eye surgery. Not sure about that last one, but I could understand why he thought I was the baseball. I jokingly told him that he better pay for my surgery after that one and moved on.

 I came up empty handed during Pirates BP, and Dodgers BP was quite lazy as well. With 5:30 fast approaching, and me desperately needing to get on the board, I immediately went to right field and when it opened up, I was leading the pack once again searching for easter eggs. I happened to come across one that was just right in front of my feet, and not hiding by any means. An easy ball number 1.

 Not many homers were being hit by the team, and Jay Gibbons was the only one with any regular power hitting it all over right field, but I never came anywhere close. With no luck there, I tried center field.

 Dodgers Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt was there and when I asked him for one, he had just given a couple of kids each a ball, and said, “Adults need to get the balls themselves,”. I should have just said, “I can’t because your team can’t hit for anything,” but instead told him, “fair enough”.

 Center was dead and the last group which among others consisted of Ivan DeJesus didn’t hit anything out, so I went down the first baseline where I saw a baseball.

 As I got there, the team was just about to get off. Vicente Padilla ignored the baseball, and I ended up asking the only other person there, Clayton Kershaw for it. He gently and slowly rolled it my way. It barely touched the dirt and never picked up speed, only slightly moving forward and very slowly at that. I had no time to look around and box out the play, but I remembered that no one else had a glove. Still, it slid right into the center of my glove as I played the ball perfectly for ball number 2. I thanked Clayton and moved to the dugout, where unfortunately no one tossed a ball up.

 With some time to kill, I sat at the Diamond Pizza with Nick Pelescak. I then headed to the bullpen where Ted Lilly and Kevin Correia were warming up.

 

During this time, P.A. announcer Tim DeBacco announced the loss of Kenny Geidel also known in PNC Park as Lemonade Man. He was truly a PNC Park icon even though he never wore a Pirates jersey. He passed away on Sunday and became a cult hero at the ballpark for his calls of “Lemonaaaade” and for telling everybody to “take it easy”. I have seen him in action for years now, and he was one of the most dedicated, passionate and hard working people that I ever met. When he was at the ballpark, he went all out trying to sell lemonade and I truly admire that. A couple of seasons ago, I regularly sat along the first baseline, and everytime he came down I would buy a lemonade just because of him. He will be missed by all Pittsburgh sports fans. DeBacco gave a brief summary of Kenny’s role to the team and then a moment of silence was observed. Many fans opted to wear yellow as a tribute to him.

 

I unfortunately did not get the warm up toss up as Correia gave the ball to Rojas who put them back in the bag.

 After not getting the first inning Andrew McCutchen toss up, I went up to my seat in the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. I did not stay there long, as unfortunately neither of the teams used many lefties, and Pittsburgh’s switch hitters batted righty with Lilly being a lefty pitcher.

 Correia looked good and then after Neil Walker and Ronny Cedeno could get a liner, Matt Kemp made them pay and hit a homer. The game quickly got out of hand and the Pirates lost a tough one to fall back to .500.

 I never had any luck at the toss ups as the center field area was crowded, and McCutchen kept throwing away from me. Matt Diaz meanwhile was in right, which meant that the throwing pattern stunk. I lined up in a perfect spot, to where Diaz could throw it right to me without any trouble, but he threw it way short and it didn’t even reach the seats. A fan had to make a major league effort to even come up with the ball.

 I do plan on being at the game later today, and I am three baseballs away from the century mark. Hopefully I can get there today, and not have to stress over tomorrow at all. I sit here typing this with a bum leg and foot, but nothing that will hurt my mobility. Wish me luck, I have a feeling that I will need it.

Grading the Pirates thus far this season

 As I sit typing this, the Pirates are standing (or maybe they are sitting right now too, who knows) with a record of 17-17. This is the longest they have sustained a .500 record since 2005, so obviously they are doing something right. Still some players have achieved better than others thus far this season. Here is a mini review and grade on each player.

 Manager Clint Hurdle B-: I had to start with Manager Hurdle. I believe by hiring the Pirates, the team was going for a 180, the complete opposite of John Russell. Someone you could approach and someone that is not shy to voice his opinions. It has achieved mixed results. The team has won all but one road series thus far, but for whatever reason, the team is not succeeding at home and that is holding them back. As I said in an earlier post, Hurdle likes to bunt, and it has cost us a game or two. All in all, Hurdle has done what I thought he could.

 Pitching Coach Ray Searage A: The pitching staff is responding to Searage and his ways. Gone is Joe Kerrigan and his dummies, and a lot of the players are comfortable with Searage as they had previously worked with him in the Minor League system. He offers encouragement to his pitchers and has made Charlie Morton the pitcher fans thought he could be. A job well done Ray,

 Ryan Doumit C: In Doumit’s defense, he has not had much time behind the plate as of late, and thus the team is trying to see how he does in right field. Doumit’s bat has come back this past week and from the right side, his weaker hitting side. The fact that he is hitting to all fields helps, but he just did not get the job done when called up early in the season. He still is having trouble throwing out runners, and that offense that kept him in Pittsburgh last season with the exception of this past week has ceased to exist.

 Chris Snyder B+: Snyder missed the beginning stages of the season, but has made up for it. I would like to see a little more pop in his bat as well as a little bit better plate coverage when a throw from the infield is coming in, but otherwise he has done a great job. He calls a good game, he offers encouragement to pitchers, he can knock in the runs, he doesn’t quit and he can throw runners out. If Snyder stays on top of his game, the team can go far.

 Jason Jaramillo C+: Hard to grade Jaramillo, but he hit quite well in Spring Training and before he was optioned back to AAA, he led the team in hitting. He was not given many starting opportunities, and was the odd man out when Chris Snyder came back from injury as the team still had not traded Ryan Doumit. I think at worst he will be a September call-up, but if a catcher gets injured again or Doumit gets traded, Jaramillo will be up and perhaps will get more of an opportunity.

 Lyle Overbay D+: I was critical of this signing, and by the looks of it, I am right. Overbay just projects to be another Adam LaRoche, which means there could be some more struggles ahead. He is known for his defense, yet two or three game changers came at his expense and cost the Pirates wins. Fans turned quite quickly on LaRoche and if Overbay continues slumping, then he will face a similar fate.

 Steve Pearce B- : I understand and respect that many of you may find this ranking to be too high, but I base the ratings on what I see. It is true that Pearce did not start much, but he has proven to be a great corner infielder and a part of this team. I like that he can hit lefties well, and as shown during yesterday’s game against the Astros, he plays hard and shows that he wants to win. I can finally see the desire and passion that I felt he was lacking in previous seasons. Also, who thought that the Pearce at third experiment would actually work? We have seen Delwyn Young fail there among others, and Pearce seems capable of handling the position and can give Pedro Alvarez a day off every now again, especially when a lefty is starting.

 Neil Walker B- : Walker’s power has been welcome, and was on full display in the cold and rain against the Chicago Cubs in the Opening Series. I believe that he strikes out way too much, and it is something that he needs to work on. Perhaps this may mean a change in approach at the plate, but I have a feeling that Walker will do whatever it takes to succeed. His glove work was also all over the place. I understand that he is not a natural second baseman, but his fielding last season exceeded expectations, and brought excitement. There were at least two or three occasions earlier this season where an easy play became an E4, because Walker rushed a throw. Defense wins championships sometimes Neil.

 Ronny Cedeno D: I am likely being nice with the grade. Let’s be honest, Cedeno is a AA player in the Major Leagues and he has proven time in and time out that he is not a Major League player. Clint Hurdle wants to ride the hot hand at the position, but there is nothing that Cedeno should be riding but either the bench or the bus heading out to a Minor League team’s next game. Simple double plays become Cedeno bobbles or errors and it is really getting on fan’s nerves.

 Brandon Wood B: The good thing about Wood is that he can hit to all fields. Cedeno has tried this, but it has not panned out for him. The Pirates picked up Wood knowing that they had nothing to lose, and under hitting coach Gregg Ritchie and Clint Hurdle, he has an identity again. He also has done a nice job at shortstop and lately at third base, he has been a good replacement for Pedro Alvarez, already making a web gem of his own while over there. I understand that Wood has only played a handful of games, but I see a lot of potential.

 Pedro Alvarez D: Alvarez has his April slumps, and this was no different. I had high hopes that this year would be different, but it was not. If there is any silver lining, it is that minus an Opening Day miscue, his glove work is much improved. Still his strikeouts are high, and he just isn’t hitting the ball hard. Now that he is coming off of a minor injury, it will be interesting to see how he bounces back, because the team needs his bat.

 Jose Tabata C+: Tabata had a great start to the season, and his power numbers even were up, but then hit a cold spell. I thought that he was capable of hitting lead off, but then his bat got cold and he slid down. Tabata’s glove work has slightly improved, and he is stealing bases pretty well. The cold weather was not his friend, as he pulled something in his leg while running, but the weather is now getting warmer, and I expect Tabata to get warmer offensively as well.

 Andrew McCutchen C+: Cutch had a rough start to the season, and finally is starting to awaken offensively. He had a scary moment already this season with a grab in Chicago where he hurt his body on Wrigley Field’s concrete. He still is very capable defensively, and putting him back to lead off has freed him up and in a sense de-stressed him. He is hitting once again and steals are back, let’s just hope this continues.

 Matt Diaz C-: Diaz was brought in because he could hit lefties. Minus one game against the Astros, I have seen nothing that has proven that he can handle the job. His routes are not sharp, and he seems like a singles or contact hitter. I wanted to see some pop in that bat, and I at times barely even see personality. His stance also is a little weird. I have no idea how one can get power when their bat is right at the catcher’s eyes right before the pitcher releases the baseball. Diaz will have to work on his timing if he wants to succeed.

 Garrett Jones C: Jones had a rough start to the season, and at home is not getting the job done. His average at PNC Park has just not been there, and at times he looks like a golfer at the plate, swinging a wedge instead of a bat. I think Jones goes at the deadline, and it is imperative for him to get hot in order to increase his value.

 Xavier Paul INC: I have only seen Paul play a game or two. He has the speed off of the bench that is needed, and as a late inning fielder, he has proven to be capable. Not much else to say.

 John Bowker D: Just did not see much of him before he left. He did well in Spring Training but as Clint Hurdle said, he was third practically everywhere on the depth chart and had no where to turn to.

 Josh Rodriguez D- : Much like John Raynor last year, just never really had a chance. JRod looked overwhelmed and at the plate had no discipline and fielding was never anything special. I wanted Pedro Ciriaco up here, but management kept JRod here because of his bat, a bat that only produced one hit in his time in Pittsburgh. Ciriaco could easily have done that, and is a much better fielder. Rodriguez was a waste of a Rule-5 pick and still think we should have spent the pick on a pitcher.

 Evan Meek D: I guess I love giving away D’s. No seriously, I actually blame management more for this. They knew that he was sick and that it cost his shoulder dearly that he was throwing. Meek, last season’s All-Star from the team, deserved a lot better. His velocity which topped out at 97 last season, routinely topped out at 91 or 92 miles per hour last season. Just disappointing, he was hung out to dry, and I think that they knew he would fail. Still, one Meek toes the rubber, the results are up to him, and the bottomline is that he failed. With that said, I love Evan, he is my favorite player, but just has not achieved much in an otherwise successful bullpen.

 Joe Beimel B-: Unsure of how to grade Joe because of how he came on late. He is a flexible guy in that he is not just a one batter kind of reliever or just a lefty specialist. Management in a sense has hung him out to dry as well. He was placed into nearly impossible scenarios, and came out with minimal damage. Just haven’t seen enough from Beimel to bump this grade up more.

 Dan Moskos INC: I have only seen him pitch once, which is way too small of a sample size. It was a 1-2-3 against the Rockies, and his first batter was Carlos Gonzalez, not an easy out, so that can speak to Moskos and his toughness.

 Daniel McCutchen A: A great start for this Cutch. He came up from AAA, and has found his niche in the bullpen with a sub one ERA. He may be the most improved player on this roster, with Charlie Morton his only competition. I do not think anyone expected this from D. Cutch, and oh yes, his hair is awesome. Hopefully he can keep this up.

 Jose Veras B+: Veras has been battled tested and for the most part has come out fine. I hate how he really slows the pace of the game, and his outings against Colorado on April 9 and his outing against the San Diego Padres was a near disaster. Still, he has done a solid job, and I am encouraged.

 Chris Resop B+: Before this past series against the  Houston Astros he had either an A or A- coming his way. He cost the team two games, and his failure to keep the ball up, made him pitch into vulnerable locations. Earlier, he was the eighth inning guy, who could do no wrong and just was mowing down hitters. He even could go two innings for the team if needed, and had a lot to offer. He did have a hiccup in his second game of the season against the Chicago Cubs, but before this Astros series, he was as close to automatic as the Pirates had.

 Mike Crotta C+: Crotta has been too inconsistent. His sinker is what is keeping him in the big leagues. He looks like he is trying to find his way and in a sense still try to figure himself out as a pitcher. Clint Hurdle has put him into big spots and he has delivered mixed results. Still Crotta seems very determined, and is a valuable part of the bullpen, but could be low man on the totem pole when Evan Meek comes back from injury.

 Joel Hanrahan A: Joel has done about as good of a job, as a closer can do, and has converted 10 saves out of a possible 10. I am still worried because in previous seasons as closer, he experienced many let downs, and also seems to rely solely on two pitches. Regardless, he has clocked triple digits at times, and not many can catch up to that. Hanrahan has proven that he was the right man for the closer’s role and although he can allow a few too many base runners, he finds way to tight rope out of danger.

 Garrett Olsen C: Just never got that good of a look at him before he was DFA’d. He was a decent lefty option, but once Beimel came back, he became the odd man out.

 Kevin Correia A: When Clint Hurdle named Correia the Opening Day starter and hence the ace of the staff, fan reaction even from the faithful was very negative. All Correia has done is pitch his butt off, and get five wins, the most on the staff. He does have an 0-1 record at home, with the loss coming to Milwaukee but he had put up a lot of zeroes and it was one inning that cost him, plus he has only three home outings. This means that he has had to win away from home, and he has done that and more. He certainly has exceeded expectations, and it does not look like he will slow down anytime soon.

 Paul Maholm B-: I will give Maholm the benefit of the doubt. He is 1-4 this season, but his 3.68 ERA, tells me that he does not receive much run support. He tends to labor in the early innings and this is what costs him. He gives up way too many first inning runs and with the offense being tender and struggling, that will not help his cause. I think Maholm is auditioning for other teams right now, and will be traded come July. I believe he will go to a contender, and for some reason, New York Yankees keeps coming to my head. He would be a good fifth starter or long reliever for them.

 Charlie Morton A: Maybe John Russell was right when he said that Charlie Morton had “electric stuff” Morton pitched well in the spring, which was when Ray Searage switched his delivery. Morton’s delivery while a little stiffer, is about as close to a mirror image as one can get to Roy Halladay. Also Mike Crotta helped Morton with a new sinker, and the grip has helped Morton all season. To date Morton is 4-1 with his one truly bad start being on April 20 against the Florida Marlins. Morton does need to work more on his control. He walks way too many people and other than his most recent start, has walked at least two batter in every outing. Still at this point last year, Morton was having a breakdown of sorts and was down in AAA working on his game, with his confidence shattered. I think his confidence is back, but it is rather shaky. He will have to work on that in order to succeed.

 James McDonald C+: McDonald’s Spring Training injury cost him early in the season. His velocity was down, his confidence shattered, his pitch count up and his ERA sky rocketing.  These past three starts have shown us the McDonald we saw last season. I think we will see this McDonald, but his velocity needs to be up a little more. He also still labors early in the games, and this affects how far he can go in games, where managers are afraid to let starters pitch over 100 pitches. 

 Jeff Karstens B-: Karstens is a trooper and although his 2-1 record has not shown it, he has been a valuable part of this team. He can be a long reliever or a starter and has had mixed results as a starter, but with Ross Ohlendorf injured, things have been tough. Karstens works hard, and Clint Hurdle says that he is a student of the game and he will have to continue to attack the strike zone as Ohlendorf is more than likely out until June at the earliest.

 Ross Ohlendorf D-: Everyone expected a bounce back season from Ohlendorf. He won only one game last season, mostly due to poor run support, and he got a raise in arbitration to over $2 million. He struggled a whole lot during Spring Training and he continued during the season, but then got injured once again in his second start. His current record is 0-0 and his 7.27 ERA is not pretty by any means. He will have to prove to the Pirates that he can get the job done, especially now that he more than likely is labeled as injury prone

 Well that is all of the Pirates so far through the season. I may do another one of these in June, and it will be interesting to see how the team will fare. Will the team continue its winning ways, or will they revert to old habits and dip below .500 once again? Only time will tell. 

  

Pirates vs Houston Astros 5/7/11 PNC Park

             Let me start the entry by saying this proven fact: Pittsburgh weather is very two faced. All of last home stand, we were told that there would be tons and tons of rain. This rain never truly materialized, but because of this threat the Pirates grounds crew decided to preserve their precious grass and cancel BP. This was never needed as it never rained during BP. Myself and all of the other PNC ballhawks were very upset by this, and I consistently openly questioned their horrible decision making.

                Fast forward to tonight’s game. I was riding a bus down to downtown in order to attend this game, and it was beyond hot. The bus driver even asked us if we wanted some more air as she said that she felt as though she was going to pass out. Soon enough, the windows were all opened. I jokingly told them, “Now that all of the windows are opened, watch it start to rain in ten minutes or so”. They all laughed, but I had no idea how right I would be.

                After dropping off my portfolio at Point Park, I was coming onto the walkway to head out and I saw the rain and cussed. I knew that it would be a very short lived rain, but I also knew that because of the rain last night that they would be scared and cancel BP. I immediately swore loudly and the six people in the vicinity all looked at me.

                I then put on my raincoat and walked outside. I found the rain to be rather manageable, however my worst fears were confirmed when I saw the tarp on the field when I was crossing the Clemente Bridge to come to the game. I immediately knew that my quest to 100 career snags was going to have to wait another day, and I would have to change into survival mode to keep my streak alive.

                I stretched out for a few minutes, ensuring that my back would not flare and go out on me, and then I saw Baseball Joe. By this point, the rain had stopped and then come back even harder, yet here we were deciding to throw. I decided after a throwing session earlier this week after a midterm to switch from five fingers to four and to worry more about accuracy than the velocity. Low and behold, by not worrying about the velocity but rather coming through with a straighter arm angle and following through, I gained velocity. While we were throwing Erik Jabs and Nick Pelescak opted to take it to the street, but they were quickly interrupted by a wedding and thus had to stop. I really thought that the weddings and special events were to be held on non- game days, but whatever. Regardless, Joe and I kept throwing and I was dialing up my speed. We then stopped after about 10-15 minutes.

                Then, the rain finally decided to stop, and the wedding people left the area, so I threw with Erik and Nick for another 15-20 minutes or so. My arm was still good, and my accuracy was fine as well. I also was told that my velocity was faster as well.

                During the middle of the session, Colston had arrived and we caught up in line as we had not seen each other all week.

                Us ballhawks all got excited as shortly before the gates were to open, the grounds crew finally wised up and took the tarp off of the field. We all thought that there was going to be BP at that point. I told them, that realistically, the Astros would be the only ones hitting, and that was at a best case scenario.

                With that we raced in and got our hats and then tried to find easter eggs. Erik and Nick searched the lower bowl, where Nick found one. I searched the upper deck where nothing was to be found. I know that the Astros took early BP and I believe that the Pirates had a few hitters take some cuts, so I was a tad bit surprised that there was nothing else to be found, but the ushers may have selfishly swiped up the baseballs as usual.

                While Erik and Nick searched the third base side, I went by the bullpen. I had a great spot, and Pitching Coach Ray Searage was trying to get Chris Resop to come up more through his delivery. I then noticed that a few ballhawks came up and gave up. It was uncharacteristic, but I have found that Searage never listens to me. I decided to grab the spot closest to where the exit, but of course one baseball went to a woman and Nick got the other two; right where I was standing. Guess who was a little peaved?

                I immediately cast it aside, and told Colston to come with me. We ran to the vacant third base side where Paul Maholm was throwing a side session with Bullpen Catcher Herbie Andrade. I was hoping for a ball and the throws took a while. Erik was also hoping for the ball and I tried to give him space but it was hard because the grounds crew made the stupid decision to leave their truck right in my line of fire. I would have to branch out further.

When they were done, Erik first called out to Herbie, and did not get a response. I tried next and was ignored as well, so I tried again and asked for the baseball clearly, loudly and politely and was rewarded with ball number one.

At that point, I was thrilled to be on the board and I thought that I would have more opportunities. I then took a look towards the infield, and saw the grim news. The Astros would not be taking batting practice and I immediately knew that I was lucky to be pocketing a baseball.

Having finished his side session, Maholm went over to sign some autographs. There were not many people over there, and everyone that lined up and asked for autographs received one. Having received Maholm’s autograph on numerous occasions, I decided to take a different approach.

 

“Hey Paul, can we get a quick picture,” I asked.

He was right before the steps and said sure. After a smile and a click, he was gone.

 

I then made my way over to the first base line, to search for potential easter eggs. I came up empty handed and then changed clothes to my orange Under Armour. It was a retro Astros color.

Immediately as if on cue, last night’s starter for the Astros Wandy Rodriguez came out to sign autographs. My only previous autograph of the season was from Tim Lincecum, so I figured it was worth it to add to my collection. Wandy signed for me last, and knowing he was from the Dominican Republic, I struck a quick Spanish conversation with him as he was signing.

“Mucha gracias,” I told him after he signed.

 

“Denada” was the reply back before he left to stretch with the pitchers. I love getting autographs when I can, and I appreciate getting autographs from lefties the most, because I am one. I feel that lefties go unappreciated in Major League Baseball let alone every where else.

 

The Astros then started to stretch out and slowly start throwing.  I positioned myself for the overthrows, but they all were wide left of me and I came away with zilch. Still with nothing going on, I opted to stay. It was kind of cool to watch them all throw, although some had stronger arms than others. Perhaps the most fun group was that of Nelson Figueroa and Jeff Fulchino. They kept airmailing each other and may have used four or five baseballs.

 

After the throwing, a lot of the players signed autographs. Mark Melancoln perhaps spent the longest time, signing for nearly everybody although his signature took a decent amount of time. Figueroa and Fernando Abad among others also signed.

 

 

 

 

I ended up not going for any more autographs although another three to four more would not have been out of the question. I did take a picture though with reliever Wilton Lopez. Lopez seemed like a really cool guy, and when I took a picture of just him moments ago, he jokingly flashed a gangster sign. I just missed the shot, but it was funny nonetheless. The Astros in recent years have been among the stingiest road teams that I knew, so it was nice to see them be nice and cool.

 

Colston and I then cruised through the 100 level as we had a considerable amount of time to kill before the game. We made several pit stops along the way, and one of which was the Hunt Auctions area. They had a nice selection of things ranging from signed bats, jerseys and baseballs to line up cards and even a ticket from the first ever game played at PNC Park. Still one thing was constant, the prices were ridiculous. $65 for a Clint Hurdle signed baseball? I would not pay $25 for a game used baseball from Opening Day, I have four of those and they were free. For $90 you could get a Pedro Alvarez signed baseball. I mean it was all way to expensive.

 

 

We also went into the Pirates Clubhouse Store and I found baseball cards from last season for $1, so I bought two packs. I then changed back into my Pirates gear and chatted with a buddy for a little while before we got to our seats.I then ate some dinner as the pregame stuff went on.

 

Finally the game was about to start, which meant that I had a chance to snag another baseball. Unfortunately for me, the seats were rather filled as 32,299 fans decided that because there were fireworks and had nothing better to do they could come to the game. It messed all of us ballhawks up and we all got shut down.

Someone that decided to show up to this game was Joe Faraguna. Joe is a New York ballhawk and is a cool guy. I remembered reading a comment on either Erik or Nick’s blog that he was coming, so I introduced myself and we shook hands. I have no idea how he did, as our paths did not cross until Andrew McCutchen’s fifth inning toss up.

By the way, at this game Cutch proved to me once again why he is conceited. Every time there is a large crowd and he has to do a toss up, he sighs and rolls his eyes up before tossing the ball up. I completely had no chance at the toss ups, but that pattern was something which I saw throughout the night.

 

 

I actually felt ill during the middle part of the game. My stomach was acting up, but I was able to take care of it after a little while. I had been running around all night, and was the most active ballhawk and was moving quite well however nothing ever came from it, and I was pacing back and forth to try and get this pain out of my chest.

As this happened I ran into Lacee Collins. I have heard from many that she was not a pleasant person to talk to and I am not a fan of her reporting skills as she will stutter or just make errors while reporting, but we had a quick conversation. It was the usual ‘hi how are you kind of deal’ but something actually materialized from the conversation.

                I told her that I was hoping that the Pirates could get the win as they were up 3-0 at the time, and she told me in response, “I am ready for some electric stuff”. We both had a great laugh, said our good byes and parted ways. She of course was talking about Charlie Morton who once again pitched brilliantly. It was a great conversation and I think more highly of her now. She easily could have brushed me aside, and I never even told her that I am a fellow journalist, but still a nice conversation.

                     

           I decided after my stomach pains to dramatically reduce my ballhawking to only toss ups and just sit down. Unfortunately the toss ups did not fall my way, but sometimes that is the way it goes. I was just glad to extend my streak, especially considering the fact that there were not many baseballs to go around. That in itself was a victory of sorts. I also got a chance to sit down, which I do not do much and enjoy a game. I do enjoy all of the other games and watch them but ballhawking is work and I have to pay more attention to the ball than the game a lot of the game.

                In the end, the Pirates emerged victorious, and the Jolly Roger was raised. Morton picked up his fourth victory and the team would have a chance to achieve a .500 record, something which they did do the next day.

               

 

                 

              

                   

               I left immediately after the game, and as stated earlier ended up with only one baseballs, placing me at 95 career baseballs. This weather just does not want me to hit the century mark. Because of the lack of BP during the last home stand, I have every intention of attending the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. I have a lot of strategies in place for when the team comes in, and as long as the weather will cooperate, I likely can reach the century mark by Wednesday. I am excited at the potential I have in this next series with Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney among others coming in. Between these three days and two hours of tennis coaching on Monday and Friday, I will be wiped when I am done, but the reward will be huge if I can go all three days.

                Total Snags: 1

                Career Total: 95…. And counting

                Signatures: Wandy Rodriguez

                Next Game:  Tuesday May 10 vs Dodgers

Ballhawking thru two homestands

 Due to the rain, there were not nearly as many opportunities to snag baseballs. There was no batting practice every single game I went besides Saturday. I am not counting Wednesday towards my ballhawking stats as I was a media member and covering both dugouts (and there was rain galore again) I had no opportunites to snag a thing.

 Games: 6

 Balls snagged: 25

 Career Balls Snagged: 94

 Top Catches of the homestand:

 1. Saturday April 23 Pirates vs Nationals: Matt Diaz hit a ball that initially looked as though it was going to fall short of where I had set up shop, but it sailed longer. I was prepared to play it off of a bounce, and it did bounce, right off of my leg. I had no time to lick my wound and I dove on the concrete on top of the ball making the snag. It also was ball number 22 of the season.. BHL founder Erik Jabs said that I needed to snag 21 this month to keep pace, and it allowed me to pass this benchmark. Also it took me until July 20, 2010 last season to get to this point, so I am well ahead of my pace.

 2. Tuesday April 26 Pirates vs Giants: I had just missed an Andrew McCutchen toss up in the third as he under threw me. My back had been out and my leg still banged up from the Diaz hit and other injuries. I also had slightly tweaked my ankle. In the fifth inning, Cutch tossed up the ball and I knew this likely was my last chance. Ian Weir had snagged the third inning ball after my misplay, and if I missed it, he was likely to get it. Right behind me was a supervisor so I had to defend him as well. It was the exact same catch as the one on April 14 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

 Autographs:

1. Tim Lincecum- I don’t really chase autographs anymore, but with no BP on the field and nothing going on, I tried to get Giants ace Tim Lincecum. It was hard because he started in the middle of the autograph seekers and I was closer to the end of the line trying to gauge where he was. He then was skipping every two or three people, so I went where I thought he would sign, and I ended up correct. He signed the baseball thrown to me by Madison Bumgarner only minutes before. It was a great moment and a great add to a collection which includes Adam Wainwright, Billy Wagner, Ubaldo Jimenez, Andrew McCutchen and more which I cannot think of right now. Lincecum has a scribbly autograph much like Jimenez, so you really can’t tell that it was him who signed it.

Upcoming Dates:

 I plan on being an active member of this homestand. Being at 94 snags, I more than expect to surpass the 100 career snags on this homestand, which has visits from the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros are not great when it comes to BP or toss ups, but you never know. The Dodgers have a new manager but with Matt Kemp, Andre Eihier and others it should be a fun BP. Here are the games I plan on going to at this moment:

 1. Saturday May 7 vs Astros

 2. Tuesday May 10 vs Dodgers

 3. Wednesday May 11 vs Dodgers

 4. Thursday May 12 vs Dodgers

 PLEASE HOLD UP WEATHER!!! WE HAVE ALREADY HAD ENOUGH RAIN!!

 Lastly fellow Pittsburgh ballhawk and BHL member Nick Pelescak asked me if I wanted to go to Washington to see the Nationals play the Giants, but I decided against it as I have finals this week. It actually didn’t seem that expensive to go so very well may take a road trip this year. He also offered to take me to Texas this summer, but with a summer job and limits I declined that invite. Perhaps Washington and Cleveland are possibilities this season.

Media Day #2 4/27/11 Impressions

 I have been told not to post the transcripts of the interviews I had onto my blog, and thus you will not be seeing those on here. I would like to be asked back this season, and this could go a big way to helping me. I likely will not be a media member again until September as school is practically over and does not begin until the end of August or early September. Because this coming week is finals week, I have not even had time to transcribe the chats.

 Before I move into this entry, here is one final picture from the night before. It was too cute not to put in an entry:

 Anyways, one last bit of news to pass along. My radio show A to Z Sports wrapped up this week, and I received an award from the radio station. I was named “Most Underrated DJ”. I came very far this year and planning/creating the show each week, lining up guests, coming up with questions for them, making a Facebook and Twitter page, writing sports updates and appearing on another show twice a week were some of the many commitments I made to the station. Not bad for a freshman in college.

 But back to the entry. I arrived at PNC Park a little before 2:40 but had to pay for a couple more tickets and was talking to my Season Ticket representative and a security guard and thus at 3:15 was in the press box entrance.

 I was the first one to report to the Pirates clubhouse where I checked in and waited. When Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Jen Langosch of MLB.com showed up along with my friend Kristy Robinson (who god bless her picked up a full season credential) we all entered the clubhouse. Manager Clint Hurdle would not have his press conference until 4, and no one was really in the clubhouse as the team actually was taking batting practice. With nothing going on, I decided to set off for the San Francisco Giants clubhouse.

 With me went John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus and together we had a conversation off record with Ryan Vogelsong who would be starting the next day’s game. It was great speaking with him, and he remembered all of the old Pirates reporters. At that point Freddy Sanchez walked over and said a quick hello to both of us before darting off. John and I were both waiting for Pablo Sandoval to come back for an interview. Sandoval lost a lot of weight and was running and defending better this season and I really wanted to talk to him. Unfortunately, I was playing two clubhouses at once, and it was just about four so I had to jet back to the Pirates clubhouse to speak to Manager Hurdle.

 I made it with a couple minutes to spare, and saw Colin speaking with Tim Neverett and Greg Brown was there as well. Root Sports was also well represented as Rob King was there in a red Root Sports shirt. We then were called in to speak with Manager Hurdle. I was the first one in, and thus I received a special hello greeting before taking a seat.

 I learned from my mistake from earlier in the month, and I did research and was prepared to talk to Manager Hurdle as I had compiled a set list of questions and talking points just for him, as everything else would be ad-libbed. I also was not shy to ask him a question, and I dove right in asking him the second question. My question was on Giants starter Madison Bumgarner and after I was asked to clarify what I wanted to know from Manager Hurdle, I quickly did and I got a great answer. It led into a question from Colin and a great conversation.

 Things did get a bit testy as David Todd who replaced Rocco DeMaro on Extra Innings, asked Manager Hurdle about the previous night’s bunt play by Pedro Alvarez. Todd seemed to push the boundary and luckily the two were separated by a desk because the tone of voice quickly escalated. Colin and I later talked about it, and it was not pretty. Although it did end after a little back and forth. I have never witnessed anything that seemed that unprofessional in my young career.

 Speaking of unprofessional it is time for a little rant. Among the regular media, only Kristy and myself were the only two to dress professionally. Yes, it was hot and with the rain it also became humid, however wearing jeans, shorts or slacks is just unacceptable. I am aware that some of the regulars have been at this for a while, but you are doing a job. This is not Spring Training in Bradenton, Florida. This is doing a job for your newspaper, website, etc.. so act like it. Sorry, I had to get that off of my chest. For what it’s worth, I took a while to change because I wanted to pick an unbiased color. I wanted to wear an orange shirt, but the Giants were in town so I didn’t.

 I then went back into the Pirates clubhouse and didn’t see much, so I went back to the Giants clubhouse to take a gander at what the World Champs were doing. John had his interview with Sandoval and it ended up that we were pretty much going to ask the same types of things. Freddy Sanchez kept popping in and out. At this point outdoor BP was cancelled because of the rain and tarp that was on the field.

 I then took a look in Brian Wilson’s direction. He was with Tim Lincecum and they along with another Giant were playing some kind of card game or dice game. From the outset it looked boring, but Wilson looked content and not bored, so I guess something about it was fun.

 I was looking to interview a player and nothing was going as planned, and my back which was killing the night before was coming back. I eventually settled on Cody Ross, and I approached him. I waited my turn, but apparently the guy before me got him angry and he swore and I decided that it wasn’t a good idea. I then just stood an observed a boring clubhouse. Nothing good was happening.

 Then my favorite part of the night came. A Giants TV guy came in and was making small talk with the rest of the media. I overheard him say that he had his World Series ring with him and that it was heavy. He then held it up, and I decided to give myself a thrill. I asked him if I could try it on, and I put it on and it was such a great feeling. I can only imagine how the Giants felt. After a very short while, I gave the ring back, said it was awesome and thanked him.

 I then saw that some of the Giants were going out to throw and with nothing going on in the Giants clubhouse, I was waiting for Manager Bruce Bochy to have his pre-game conference and thus I gave John my number and went out to watch Jonathan Sanchez throw in the bullpen and watch Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo throw.

 As they were throwing I took it all-in. This was my last time on the field likely until September, so I might as well soak it in. So I walked over past the Giants dugout and walked close to where the players were throwing and starting clicking the camera.

 

It was such a surreal moment living my dream and also living every fan’s dream of being on the field this close to the players, and then I saw John in the dugout I headed over to get ready for the Manager Bochy presser.

 Manager Bochy’s pre-game was much more different than Hurdle. The questions were a little broader and more creative and Manager Bochy just kept pausing in the middle of his answers. He was never short of a story and even told us reporters calmly that the team has not gotten off to the start that he had hoped. I asked Manager Bochy about his thoughts on James McDonald the Pirates starter and Manager Bochy seemed oblivious to McDonald’s early season struggles, as he replied as if McDonald was an ace and was on the top of his game. He also complimented the Pirates. If only his team listened to him, as they looked uninspired in a loss.

 Manager Bochy came off as knowledgable and believable and he was also watching his pitchers throw, so he was making small talk with us as well, using the opportunity to tell more stories. All in all, Bochy stayed for a good while.

 When he left, I took another picture:

  As I said before, McDonald pitched with a purpose for the first time all season. It was a great effort and his start had a great beginning, middle and end although the walk total was a bit high.

 Joel Hanrahan recorded his first home save of the season, and the bullpen pitched well. After the game, new Pirate Xavier Paul was spotted in the clubhouse and all signs pointed to John Bowker getting released. This was confirmed the next day, when Manager Hurdle said that Bowker was third everywhere on the depth chart that he could play.

 I attended Manager Hurdle’s post-game presser in his office, which still was neat but had a few more books and behind him a couple of the season’s promotions. I am guessing that they are for his children. 

 After the presser was over, I was the only one left in the room. I quickly asked him one question about the defensive play Pedro Alvarez made that night, going into foul territory and into the first couple rows of seats and over the big Root Sports hurdle to make a circus catch. After his response, I thanked him and left. This made me the first to enter before the game, and the last to leave after the game.

 I then went into the clubhouse with the rest of the media and we all talked to McDonald, Chris Snyder who had a key RBI and Bowker. Then I waited for my ride as others filed their stories. I studied for an exam I had the next day. It wasn’t until after midnight that I left, so after studying, I took a couple of final pics.

 

Overall, it was a great time and it is a shame that I cannot do this until September but I learned so much, and I thank everybody that was involved in allowing me to come down to do this not once but twice. 

Pirates vs San Francisco Giants 4/26 PNC Park

 Before I begin, let me explain. This entry is written in a Times New Roman font, and that is because I typed it on my computer before I placed it on here. I had a tight timeline when I first typed this and I figured this would work just as well.

This day started with a lot of promise. I had read a post from Twitter from @BucsInsider and saw that the first 15 people to meet at the Pirates Clubhouse Store would get a pair of tickets to the Pittsburgh Baseball Club for the game. Naturally, I never had a chance to experience this, so I decided to go and sure enough I landed a free pair of tickets to the game. To be honest, with rain in the forecast I would not have taken it otherwise.

 Here is a photo of me posing with the two tickets that I was given.

            When I was in one of my later classes, I saw the rain and groaned as I knew that batting practice was cancelled immediately. I then got a text stating that the tarp would go on the field at four, an hour earlier and it confirmed my worst fears that there would be no batting practice.

            I went to this game with my friend Andrew, and ultimately got the first spot in line. I was just ahead of Ian Weir and Erik and Nick opted not to go because the tarp covered the field.

      Here’s proof of the line behind me. I know not much of a line, but that was the line just moments before going into the ballpark.

           

    And then this is Ian and myself.

When the gates opened, I charged in ahead of the pack. The gates actually took longer to open, because they were trying to work the scanner. I immediately searched thick and thin for Easter eggs and overran one which Ian got. I have mixed feelings about it as of course I wanted to add to my total, but the ball was soaked and was bigger. It essentially was a play that was similar to how I performed on Saturday.

            Evan Meek then came out to throw with a fellow Pirate. I was too far away to see who it was, but he waved to me. He ended up tossing the ball to someone else, and it was almost time for the other gates to open, so I was getting ready to change into my Giants gear. All of a sudden, Meek was walking towards the bullpen. I was well aware that there was a ball in the visitor’s side of the bullpen, and I pointed it out to Meek (something along the line of “Hey Ev I think there is a ball in the bullpen” “Really, where? Oh I see it. Here you go”). He appreciated it, and ended up lobbing it up to me and with no competition I snagged my first ball of the day.

            I then went into the outfield and was about to start searching but I had a feeling that Ian had already searched the area between my time of getting the ball from Meek, and thus I went to the first baseline, where various Giants pitchers were warming up.

            The tarp was still on the field, however there was no rain, nor any impending threat of rain. Various pitchers were warming up, and I ended up getting lucky. Ian was right next to me and had his Giants gear, but I had a leg up on him, as I had gone on ESPN’s website earlier in the morning, and printed up the roster and some pitchers. I was able to correctly identify Madison Bumgarner, and after he finished his running, he picked up the ball. Everyone’s attention was elsewhere, and Ian was motioning for the ball. I somehow got a “Madison” out and before I even asked anything, I was thrown ball number 2, as I made an easy backhanded catch.

            I then tried other opportunities, however those did not work. I decided this was a good time to take a short break. Tim Lincecum had just finished pitching in the bullpen and came out. He ended up signing autographs, and I figured sure why not. I had him sign the ball that Bumgarner threw me, and although his signature much like Ubaldo Jimenez’s looks like weird scribble scrabble, it was cool to have his signature. Thanks Tim for rewarding the few fans that were there!

            I also got to see Brian Wilson but he didn’t sign autographs and his toss up went to the second deck. It was cool to see his beard.

  As for the game, it did not start on time. The game did begin at 7:50 even though no rain even fell. While we waited, we got to see Matt Cain warm up.

 

I missed on Andrew McCutchen’s first inning toss up and Garrett Jones’s second inning toss up although I was in the right section in both instances. With Cutch’s third inning toss up, it was clearly meant for me, however it was underthrown, and I had no play on it and I tried to recover but could not in time and was not happy about it. I continued the trend in the fourth as I was not even close on the Jones tossup.

           Meanwhile Charlie “Electric Stuff” Morton was dealing and pitch six plus solid innings. Good for Charlie after a poor start in his previous outing.

            With no homers heading out let alone my way, I knew that I had thus far snagged two baseballs and thus tied my mark from Saturday despite not even having any BP. In the fifth inning, I set myself up in a similar position to the catch from the Thursday game against the Brewers. Ian was unaware of this position as he had not seen this and neither Erik or Nick were in play, so Cutch gave me a chance, and I made a jump similar to that Thursday catch, and sure enough caught it on the top of my glove again. It was ball number 3 of the day.

            That was it for the day, as despite a cranky back yet again, I was able to run throughout the Riverwalk and left field. I left shortly after nine with the game in the sixth inning.

            The listed attendance for the game was just under 10,000 however clearly less people were at the game.

            I have a big day tomorrow with my media interviews. As a side note, I have been told not to post any of the quotes onto the blog and thus will respect these wishes. I may post an impressions post onto the blog, but we’ll see. Looks to be an exciting day.

            Three snags is pretty good for a non rain day and someone who was tired and had four classes or so. I am now at 94 career baseballs, and thus 100 total should be coming very soon.

          Ballhawking Stats:

     Balls snagged: 25

     Balls given away: 15

     Games: 6

Pirates vs Washington Nationals 4/23 PNC Park

 I was glad that I was not at Friday’s game, as there was no game and it was rescheduled for Monday. I am not going to Monday’s game though although Nationals BP was good on Saturday.

 Today’s game just was not a good one as I just felt tired the entire time. My back always goes out, but that was not the case last night. Still I needed only one snag to get to the 21 balls that Erik Jabs said I needed to get closer to my goal.

  I immediately looked in the second deck for Easter Eggs and because of my three hours sleep the night before, I ended up missing a ball that someone else would find later. Matt Diaz also hit a ball that was in my row, but I was talking to a ballhawk named Mike. I just was so lazy and it was mine if I had even decided to run, but it did not happen.

  I started to give up hope, especially since the usual toss up or two I got during BP was not happening and I was just getting really unlucky.

 Just when I was ready to pack it in, Matt Diaz hit it my way. The ball was heading short, and I was playing the bounce. What I did not expect was that the bounce would be off of my leg and instead of wincing in pain, I dove where I thought the ball would land and got my first ball of the day.

 You can see Diaz hitting at the top of the picture.

 Although I was in centerfield at the time of the picture and was inbetween the two left field sections, I decided to recreate the dive while looking at the camera. P.S. it was raining. This was the result:

 Photo taken by Colston Cooper

 My running at this game was by far the worst of the season, so when an unidentified hitter came up and hit a ball to the second deck, I went running up. I ended up getting the hit ball up there which came to rest in the top row of one of the sections and was ball number two on the day. The rest of Pirates BP was a couple more misses and being ignored for toss ups.

 Nationals BP was not good either as no toss up luck was coming. I even asked Chad Gaudin for one by name and he ignored me. Brian Burgess was tossing up a good deal but did not get any. I missed a few homers at center, just missed it. I then tried right field and immediately when I went up there I adjusted my position and it started to drizzle. The last ball was a bomb hit by Rick Ankiel. I had it sized up perfectly but was two rows too short.

 I then walked around the park, hanging with Nick Pelescak at the Diamond Pizza and speaking to a few people, and we even chased down a squirrel that we found. The pregame festivities ended and then I caught up with Colston as the tarp was applied onto the field. The drizzle was not even that significant, and three or so innings could have been played.

 

I was kept updated throughout the whole thing, and the end of the conversation I was told that the big stuff was coming but slowly. When I asked when, I got no response. Then I waited and about 5-10 minutes later I was told 8:15. I was asking myself what he meant and a couple minutes later, I saw that the tarp was removed from the field and the game would start at 8:15. Guess that answered my question.

 Jeff Karstens made the start tonight, and it was his best start in recent memory. He may have nailed down that fifth spot in the rotation until Ross Ohlendorf comes back.

 I was never close to any Jose Tabata or Andrew McCutchen toss ups the entire night.

 At Nick’s urging, I went to left field, and sure enough Jayson Werth hit a homer right to where I was standing. I was lined up to make the catch, but sure enough Nick and Erik leaped. I was praying that something would happen to where they did not get it. Unfortunately for me, Nick had it and thus I had no play on it. I was not happy, but at least I was in the play this time.

 I had no more luck and around 10, I left. I finally was starting to sprint between the middle of the riverwalk and left field, and  had suffered a cramp in my pectoral muscle that for a second I thought could have been serious. I am more than fine, and I plan on being at the park on Tuesday weather depending. 

 

Totals thus far:

Baseballs: 22

Baseballs Given Away: 14

Games Attended: 5

 Here is a final picture for you:

Some news and notes in preparation for the next homestand

The weekend is so close, yet seemingly so far away, and the Pirates come back home on Friday to face the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants. Here is what my plans are for this, the second homestand:

1. My first game will be on Saturday. I work tomorrow, and thus cannot go. The temperature looks very promising for Saturday although the chance for a thunderstorm is really scaring me. This weather needs to go away, and rain is a constant throughout the whole weekend series. I hope the rain will hold off until Sunday when I am not needed to be anywhere.

2. I likely will make an appearance at Tuesday’s game. I know I will be there for BP, however I am unsure as to whether or not I will stay until the first pitch, as I have a class at six. I do not want to miss the Giants BP, so we will see what happens.

3. I will be at Wednesday’s game but not because of ballhawking. For the second time this season, I will have a press credential and hence will be conducting interviews once again. I hope to be able to interview some Pirates but also reach out to the visitor’s clubhouse and interview Giants such as Freddy Sanchez and Tim Lincecum. Hopefully that works out well.

4. My goal for this homestand is to snag 11 baseballs. This would allow for me to hit 100 career baseballs before the end of the first month of the 2011 season. I average five a game thus far, and I will have to step my game up. This is a huge reason why I want to be at PNC on Tuesday. If not, I will definitely snag number 100 at some point in the Dodgers series that occurs in early May and thus is the next homestand. I am proud of what I have done thus far this season, as my efforts have placed me fourth in the BHL, when I was in the middle of the pack last season. I have definitely raised my game and made many improvements and it is great to know that they are working.

5. My parents gave me a great gift for Passover.  When I came home from my last class, they were waiting, and a strange chair was sitting there. My parents told me that it was my present and it was a chair from the press box of Three Rivers Stadium. How awesome is that??!! I love my new present, and I will likely use it while I am playing my PS3. It is just a thoughtful gift that combines my love for the Pirates with my huge interest in journalism.

6. Lastly, i have been playing MLB 11: The Show as much as possible, which is not much. I finally got into Road to the Show mode, and it is really good. The announcers need more sayings, but I have pitched nearly 175 innings and have struck out 180 batters…. in Double-A. The Pirates never had a roster spot for me though, and thus traded me to the Chicago White Sox for Omar Vizquel, which i guess solved their current shortstop problem. After the first season was over and I pitched and lost the decisive game of the AA Championship, i played hardball with the Sox and signed for $410,000 which was more than the $375,000 they were offering me. Now I am going to be the second or third starter for AAA and we shall see what happens.

 All in all, there is a lot to look forward to this homestand, and hopefully I can overcome the odds, and achieve this goal, but if I do not, I know that come May I can get the job done. I should have my Saturday recap up on Sunday.

Why the Pirates have been slumping

Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.

First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.

Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.

 Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.

Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220′s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.

Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.

 Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.

Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.

Ballhawking thru one homestand

Total Balls Snagged: 20

Total Balls Given Away: 14

Total Balls Snagged Via Hit: 8

Total Balls Snagged Via Thrown: 9

Total Balls Found: 3

Total Balls Given Away Thru Four Games Last Season: 7

My favorite Snags Thus Far:

1. First Ball that I snag each year is special, and although it wasn’t exactly thrown or hit, it was found on the bleacher general admission area and the ball had a nice hole in the middle. A nice way to start the season right away.

2. Andrew McCutchen toss-ups were common last season, and I got my first on Saturday when my seats were in section 141. I had no chance of moving, as all of center field was packed, and thus had to hope that someone would drop the tossups, as all I could do was backup the throw. Sure enough two people dropped it, and I correctly predicted where the drop would land, and it dropped right into my glove.

3. My first true run of the year was on Thursday, and I finally was able to run close to 100%. I am almost certain that Ryan Braun hit a BP home run and Nick Pelescak was running right behind me, and I tracked it just in time.

4. Lastly was my most athletic catch so far. Andrew McCutchen was going to toss up hs fifth inning toss-up, and I kept adjusting my position because of Erik and Nick doing the same. Ballhawks were converging all over me hoping I would drop the toss-up as Cutch was throwing me the ball. The throw was a little long, and luckily I timed a jump correctly and got the ball off the top of my glove with the ballhawks breathing down my neck. Not bad, and it showed that I was for real and changed my strategy from last season.

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