Results tagged ‘ Charlie Morton ’

Pirates vs Kansas City Royals 6/9 PNC Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the participants for Ballhawkfest here in Pittsburgh.

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

Pirates vs Houston Astros 5/12 PNC Park

I was only to make one of the three Astros game which truly disappointed me. I really wanted to try and get one of their commemorative baseballs. I would only have one day to do this as I had to teach tennis Friday, and Sunday my parents completely manipulated me and thus I could not go.

Saturday was a disappointment in its own right as well as I had to tooth and nail just to get to my average.

I started out by throwing on the bridge and my arm was the best it was all season. I was throwing halfway across the bridge with pop and I was pleased with how the session went.

I hoped that this positive energy would help me in the ballpark, but of course things did not turn out the way that I had hoped.

I started in left field and of course the ushers were sitting there meaning all of the balls were pocketed… again. It didn’t hurt trying to look anyways, although when I prepared to go up into the second deck someone said, “they’re all gone man. They were pocketed.”

I stayed in left for a few more minutes as Chris Leroux was in left field so we shook hands and talked. Unfortunately he was in the usual relief crowd of people in left center and I decided it was not worth it.

I was headed for the first base side, until I saw Kevin Correia with a ball. A ballhawk called for it and just for the heck of it, I threw up my glove. He ended up throwing it to me for ball #1. That has happened to me so many times where I will call a player’s name and he will throw someone else the ball, so it was nice that I was the beneficiary for a change.

I kept the good vibes going when I got on the first base side. I saw Jared Hughes with two baseballs and I sprinted to get there in time and I ended up getting there just in time.

“Hey do you want one,” He asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

Ball #2. Thanks Jared! This ball was later given away when I thought I lost my Joel Hanrahan bobblehead and a family graciously gave it back to me. The ball went to their youngest child.

The Pirates unfortutely did not have anything else that went my way during BP.

The Astros came out (thank goodness) and started throwing. Reliever Rhiner Cruz and starter Wandy Rodriguez were throwing and Cruz’s toss rolled slightly past Rodriguez and into my glove. I quickly inspected it to see if it was a commemorative. It was not but regardless, I would have thrown them back the ball. While I never got the toss up back (weird), I count the ball.

Something similar happened for ball #4. An Astros reliever had a bouncer that fellow reliever Wilton Lopez couldn’t quite handle and it went straight into my glove. Unfortunately, it was not a commemorative (Astros did not have any in their bag) and again another toss back. The ball was never given back to me, but that’s okay.

That was it for all of BP. Astros BP generally stunk so I just stayed over at first base and tried to get a toss up at the end, which did not work out.

I then went to my spot in the bullpen where bullpen coach Euclides Rojas warmed up catcher Michael McKenry and afterwards looked at me and tossed me ball #5. I gave this to a young kid standing close to me. The child’s mother was very grateful.

The good vibes spread to the Pirates who would win this game after a disappointing 1-0 loss the previous day.

Here are some photos from the game:

Pirates Charities event that occured before the ballgame

It was Joel Hanrahan Bobblehead Night at the ballpark. This is the only bobblehead of the season.

Astros catcher Chris Snyder makes his return to PNC Park.

Astros pitcher J.A. Happ warms up.

Charlie Morton warming up for the Pirates.

Person playing Baseball Quiz won a signed game used Joel Hanrahan jersey.

Erik Bedard the right man to start the home opener?

Earlier this week, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle announced that Erik Bedard will start the home opener April 5th vs the Phillies. He also named his four man rotation, which is as follows.

1. Erik Bedard

2. Jeff Karstens

3. James McDonald

4. Kevin Correia

There definitely are positives and negatives to Bedard starting:

Positives:

1. Bedard will be starting his third opener, which means he knows what to expect and can tune out the distractions that surround the opener. All of the players and coaches from both teams will be introduced and things tend to run long, as the Pirates have all kinds of honors and awards and thus Bedard may be the right man for the job.

2. Bedard has looked impressive during Spring Training and Hurdle is awarding him for this. You can’t go wrong with going with a hot hand.

3. Bedard is a ground ball pitcher which favors the Pirates well. Clint Barmes and Neil Walker are a solid defensive middle infield and should have no problem handling any of the grounders that are hit their way.

4. Bedard could be a silent leader, and has had successful seasons. A great start and a win over Roy Halladay could be what this team needs. It could fire up a young pitching staff and be what makes this team finally become consistent winners.

5. Phillies hit .247 against Bedard with 19 hits in 77 at-bats. Jimmy Rollins hits .182 against Bedard with two strikeouts in 11 at-bats. Jim Thome is a .263 hitter against Bedard in 19 at-bats. While he does have a homer and two RBI against him, Thome has struck out six times against Bedard. Shane Victorino has zero hits in two at-bats against Bedard. Ty Wigginton is a .259 hitter against Bedard and has struck out nine times in 27 at-bats vs Bedard.

Negatives:

1. Hurdle brings a lefty out to start the opener. The Pirates do not have another lefty in the rotation, and that means that teams will face four righties in a row often times. It is not a great balance and could come back to haunt the Pirates.

2. Roy Halladay is the starter and Halladay does not make many mistakes. Bedard had a rough 2011 season which included injury. With no Ryan Howard or Chase Utley in the lineup, and Raul Ibanez on the New York Yankees, the lefty power bats are all gone. Starting Bedard would have been ideal last year, but now those lefties are gone and that strategy is out of the window.

3. Jeff Karstens had the best 2011 of the Pirates pitchers and is one of the longer tenured Pirates. Despite a few too many walks, he has been solid this Spring Training and has been consistent much like last season. It makes no sense that the Pirates do not reward Karstens by having him take the mound on the home opener. Not to mention that Karstens survived a tense atmosphere and had a very good start against the Phillies at PNC Park last season.

4. His injury history still is a concern. Yes it is a concern no matter when injuries happen, but if Bedard gets injured on the opener it would be disaster. With A.J. Burnett out and Charlie Morton likely not 100% ready for the season right now, this could put the Pirates in a downward spiral. The Pirates pride themselves on quick starts, and they already may have the toughest opening month in the majors.

Pirates avoid arbitration with Hanrahan and Morton

The Pirates had an active morning starting with the signing of their all-star closer Joel Hanrahan. The signing means that the Pirates avoid arbitration for Hanrahan. The Pirates and Hanrahan agreed to a one-year deal worth $4.1 million with incentives based on performance totaling $50,000. Last season, Hanrahan went 1-4 but had an ERA of 1.84 and had 40 saves. Clint Hurdle seemed to make it clear that Hanrahan was to be used only to save games. Hanrahan also seemed to struggle with the four out save. The record is a little alarming and the ERA could have been lower had it not been for a regression in the second half of the season. Hanrahan still has that great fastball and I think he could be very successful. A very good and important sign for this Pirates team.

Hanrahan is on the far left in this picture

The Pirates also signed Charlie Morton to a one year deal. The deal is worth $2,445,000. I am sure the amount could have been higher had it not been for an injury Morton is working back from. The injury will force him to be unavailable for Opening Day and late-April is his estimated time of arrival back to the Pirates. Morton went 10-10 last season with a 3.83 ERA. Morton saw a delivery overhaul when he switched to pitching in a style similar to that of Roy Halladay. He earned the nicknames “Ground Chuck” and “Electric Stuff” for these efforts and while his control sometimes was off, the results were much better for both Morton and the Pirates.

Charlie Morton is on the far right of this picture

I got a chance to speak to both Hanrahan and Morton during the early stages of last season, and both were very candid with me.

Morton talked to me about the delivery and how it was started during Spring Training. This does not seem like a big deal now, but this was in April, before the media really picked up on the story and made it into (in the Post-Gazette’s case) a two part series. I found it telling that he compared this new motion to the old one.

“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early,” Morton said. “I may have been tipping pitches, I’m not sure, but I know that the hitters were seeing the ball really well. I adjusted some things, and release the ball a little later and as a pitcher, you can see the swings of the hitters. When I started seeing guys late on pitches after the adjustment, even if they were right down the middle, I knew was heading in the right direction, and that allows me to be confident.”

For Hanrahan, he was talking to me about that feeling of nailing down the save and having total control over any hitter that stepped up to the plate.

“That’s a great day any day you can do that,” Hanrahan said. “It’s a long season, long year, and the games are kind of long themselves, so once you get those three outs, everybody’s kind of relaxed a little bit more, and it’s one of the best feelings you can earn that day.”

As a side note, a quick congratulations to Joel Hanrahan on now being a married man as he tied the knot very recently with Kim.

The Pirates now have four arbitration-eligible players left, and they are Garrett Jones, Jeff Karstens, Casey McGehee and Evan Meek.

Baseball Prospectus on select MLB Players

Here is what this year’s edition of Baseball Prospectus which came out before the season said on some players.

Ian Kennedy (21-4 2.88): “Kennedy’s modus operandi has long been pinpoint control, which is what made his utter lack of it with the Yankees so puzzling. The key part of the Diamondbacks’ return in the deal sending Max Scherzer to the Tigers. Kennedy found his form in the senior circuit and put together a very solid season. Despite just middling stuff, he has always excelled at spotting his pitches just so, and he gets an above-average number of called strikes. Just 26 years old, Kennedy has plenty of room to improve, particularly given that he has the ability to lower his walk rate. Probably ineligible for arbitration until 2012 and under team control until 2015, Kennedy doesn’t possess ace upside like Scherzer’s, but he should be a very cost-effective midrotation starter for years to come.”

Jacoby Ellsbury (.321 32 HR 105 RBI 2011 AL Comeback Player of the Year): “It was a strange year for Ellsbury, as the outfielder and the Red Sox training staff could not agree on when and how he broke his ribs: when Adrian Beltre violently staked a claim on a pop fly or when Ellsbury made an outfield dive six weeks later. While attempting to compensate for the pain of the five broken ribs, Ellsbury added a strained lat to his medical troubles. When he returned from his rehab- not soon enough for either Kevin Youkilis or the media, both of whom suggested Ellsbury was soft- he reinjured the ribs and was shut down for the season. If he is finally equipped with a full rib cage, there is no reason to think that Ellsbury will be anything other than the above-average outfielder whom the Red Sox hoped to see in 2010.”

Don Kelly (.245 7 HR 28 RBI HR in ALCS off Ivan Nova): “Versatility is Kelly’s stock in trade, as the longtime minor leaguer fitted around the field like an overcaffeinated bat, acquitting himself well in center and at all four corners. His own bat, however, continued its career long slumber, allowing younger talents like Boesch and Casper Wlss to tipto past him on the depth chart. If he could play shortstop, Kelly might have found a career s Leyland’s Bloomquistian security blanket; instead he’s probably Toledo bound.”

Lance Berkman (.301 31 HR 94 RBI 2011 and .313 2 HR 11 RBI in postseason NL Comeback Player of the Year): “In two Junes Interleague games against the Yankees, Berkman went a futile 0-for-8. Brian Cashman might have taken this as foreshadowing and saved the team a couple of prospects. Slow to recover from knee surgery, Berkman missed the first two weeks of the season and never did find his stroke. Given his age and general conditioning- the only thing that makes it possible to distinguish Berkman from the Met Life blimp is that only one of them has Snoopy tattooed on the side- he might never find it again. At this late stage of his career, Berkman has become a SHINO (Switch-Hitter In Name Only), needing to be protected from southpaws, and deploying him in the field is to be avoided. He did hit .299/.405/.388 (one home run) in September, and he had something of an excuse for his less-than-limber work in a knee that troubled him all season. The little hot streak, the injury and his impressive history were enough to convince the Cardinals to offer Berkman a one-year contract, but their apparent intent to make him the everyday left fielder is, to put it mildly, optimistic.”

Charlie Morton (10-10 3.83): “With an abominable 1-9 record and a 9.35 ERA through his first 10 starts, Morton was so horrible to begin last season that the Pirates stashed him on the disabled list with the aid of a nebulous claim of shoulder fatigue. The team then had him spend time with a sports psychologist before starting him over at square one in extended spring training. Morton posted a 3.82 ERA at Triple-A, then had a couple of decent starts after being called back up to the major leagues in August. However, his results have never matched up with an arsenal that includes a 94-mph fastball with plenty of life and a plus curveball. The best way to salvage Morton’s career seems to be a permanent sabbatical in the bullpen, but the Pirates hard-headedly refuse to give up on the hope that he can become a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Allen Craig (.305 11 HR 40 RBI .243 4 HR 8 RBI in postseason; leaping catch in World Series game seven on Nelson Cruz): “Craig has nothing more to prove in the minors; he’s 26, and he has a major-league bat and a major-league problem with his glove. He has plummeted down the defensive spectrum from third base, displaying bad hands at first and little range in the outfield, but as his career .321/.380/.548 line in Triple-A shows, all that awkwardness melts away when he’s in the batter’s box. With Lance Berkman slated to see the majority of time in left, Craig may get some at-bats against lefties to help cover for the starter’s platoon issues.”

David Freese (.297 10 HR 55 RBI; .397 5 HR 21 RBI a postseason record; ALCS/World Series MVP): “Freese inherited the third-base job last year but couldn’t run with it, as a series of lower leg injuries culminating in surgery on both ankles kept him from running much of anywhere. He’s back to try again this spring possibly healthy but definitely a year older- not a good thing for a 28-yeat-old prospect. Freese has hit everywhere he’s been and gets on base, though the prodigious power he showed in the minors has so far melted under the bright lights, and injuries have reduced his range to below-average. The best-case scenatio for Freese is that he’ll be an inexpensive complement to the millionaires in the middle of the order, but he’s not destined for their tax bracket.”

Jason Motte (5-2 2.25 ERA 9 saves; 0-1 2.19 5 saves postseason): “Motte bounced back from a subpar 2009 to post impressive numbers last year and stake his claim to the oft-sought but rarely fulfilled “future closer” title. Terrorizing the late innings with his upper 90s fastball and devastating slider. Motte led the club with 18.3 Adjusted Runs Prevented, struck out more than a batter per inning, and back a few chunks out of his walk rate. He has yet to find the magic elixir to cure his problems with lefties, however, as portside hitters have abused him to the tune of .292/.384/.466 during his career. If Motte can clean up that particular mess, he might someday earn closer cash.

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.

My interviews at PNC Park 4/13/11

 *Note: Before I begin, I do want to say that I left a couple of quotes out, but these do not affect what you are reading. Enjoy!

Pittsburgh Pirates Media Interviews

Pregame:

Manager Clint Hurdle:

1.      What does a rainout do to you, particularly the pitchers?

“It’s plays out in different ways. There’s times you really prefer to keep playing and there’s times when a day off is nice. We had the day off, and I don’t think that anyone was clawing or scratching and kicking their teeth or was going to walk out the door and head home.”

2.      On Evan Meek being ready for tonight’s game

“He’s fit for duty. He really well could be (in terms of is he still sick).”

3.      Lined up rotation for Cincinnati

“We still have a TBA (to be announced) on the 17th. Friday and Saturday will just fall in order with (Charlie) Morton and (James) McDonald.”

4.      On whether Jeff Karstens is available in relief for Brewers series

“He will be available thru the series.”

5.      Season breakdown in days or weeks?

“I usually break things down into ten game sets. It allows you to look at everyone a little bit.”

6.      Thru ten games now

“I think we have done some things right and some things wrong. There is room for improvement in some areas.”

7.      On Josh Hamilton’s slide and advising players against sliding headfirst

“Yes all of the time. There’s two players in the Major Leagues right now Rafael Furcal and Josh Hamilton that were hurt for sliding first.”

8.      Is there any leeway when a manager argues balls and strikes?

“You are not gone automatically. If you leave the dugout you have a good chance of being gone automatically. I have had running commentary with every ump since the start of the season, some more then others. There are a couple of umps that don’t even acknowledge the fact that you’re there, I’m sure for all the appropriate reasons. Most guys will say, ‘that’s it, any more and you’re gone’.”

9.      On Garrett Jones not being in the lineup

“Yesterday, I was looking at a lineup from the standpoint that we were going to play the three games series and that there were going to be two left-handers. Right now, Matt is swinging the bat better, so this Marcum kid he’s an interesting pitcher, his lifetime splits are reversed. Right handers are hitting 108 points higher against him than left-handers. I already am throwing three left-handers in the lineup today. I’ve encouraged people in the past to live outside the box and be creative and initially I did not do that yesterday and I got to sleep on it for a night, and I thought ‘let’s go do it’.”

10.  On getting switch-hitter Ryan Doumit to bat from the right side of the plate

“We’ve had the talk. I wouldn’t force anybody to do it.”

Charlie Morton:

1.      Where do you weigh in on the whole Electric Stuff groups online?

“Electric Stuff? Do I endorse it (laughs)? I mean I think I have good stuff, do I endorse it, sure (laughs). I appreciate the support.”

2.      On his new arm angle

“We actually started to tinker with it probably in the second week of Spring Training. It’s still kind of new. I think during Spring Training, I was so focused on competing and I hadn’t really adapted to it the way I wanted to. I think now, I’m getting used to it but the first couple starts, there’s going to be some control problems  but my misses are consistent, I’m missing down and in to a righty, and it just shows that I’m not making the adjustment but at the same time it is showing that once I do make the adjustment it will be consistent, I just got to work on it.”

3.      How do you plan on remaining confident and getting ahead of hitters in the count?

“I think what happened was mechanically, I was showing the ball really early. I may have been tipping pitches, I’m not sure, but I know that the hitters were seeing the ball really well. I adjusted some things, and release the ball a little later and as a pitcher, you can see the swings of the hitters, when I started seeing guys late on pitches after the adjustment, even if they were right down the middle, I knew was heading in the right direction, and that allows me to be confident.”

4.      Comparison of new arm slide to Roy Halladay

“An arm angle is one thing, results are another. Is it good that people like my arm angle? Yeah, it’s really good. If I can pitch like him, then I’ll be perfectly happy. I feel that when I can throw a ball down in the zone I’m going to get groundballs.”

5.      Rivalry with Brewers

“It’s similar to what we have struggled with in the past; winning the games on the road. We had a great first road trip, and I think we have something to prove. The key is not dwelling in the disappointment from things that have happened in the past. If we focus on those things, it’s going to bring us down.”

6.      On the fan incidents that happened this week

“I heard about it, I saw a picture of it and someone said it was on YouTube, I haven’t researched it. I heard about the usher that was killed, and stuff like that is more disappointing.”

7.      Anything to add?

“Go Bucs!”

Mike Crotta

1.      The sinker

“It’s got a lot to do with arm slot and just how you finish with your pitch. It’s a little easier for me to throw and Charlie’s pretty much the same way.”

2.      Is that your out pitch?

“That’s generally what I go to, especially being out of the ‘pen, You don’t want to get beat with anything but your best pitch, so I throw it more often then not.”

3.      Secret in terms of bouncing back from a rough outing

“You just need to have short memory. You can’t worry good or bad about what happened yesterday because obviously it doesn’t matter now. There’s nothing I can do about what happened yesterday whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, you just need to look forward and be ready for today.”

4.      What did do between this year and last year to make the team?

“I had the opportunity of making the team, and all I thought about was keeping my pitches down in the zone, and not really worrying about anything else.”

5.      How have you embraced the all-in call that Manager Hurdle has put out?

“You have to, you can’t do anything in this game halfway.”

6.      On his unique ritual before warming up

“I just want to try and get everything going”

7.      Trying to stay fresh for a 162 game schedule

“This is my first time in the bullpen, so it’s going to be a trial by error and learn by watching other people and how they do it and I’m going to try and take bits and pieces of guys that have had successful careers and see if I can mold that into something of my own.”

Postgame:

Manager Clint Hurdle

1.      On Marcum

“It’s what he does when he’s effective. When he left, truth be told, we may have barreled one ball, Overbay’s single, Diaz snuck a single through the middle of the infield, but there were a lot of miss hits along the way. He changes speed very effectively.”

2.      On Correia

“The one pitch hurt. The breaking ball- we wanted it down, and he left it up and Prince hit it to the biggest part of the ballpark.”

3.      On whether it is true that people make Kevin pay for his mistakes

“Yeah. I think that’s accurate. As is the case with most pitchers unless you have top shelf velocity or something like that. If you hang a breaking ball in this league, you’re more than likely going to be backing up a base or rubbing up another one.”

4.      On whether Correia had a play if he had gone after the bunt

“Well, we won’t know. We work very hard on our bunt defenses, we don’t have many of the ones we have. That one was a pitcher priority with a line. You all stood out there in Spring Training, and watched us go through our PFP’s all the time, and his priority was the line. If he gets to the ball, we have to throw to third in a nothing-nothing game. We had a chance of not facing three and four in their lineup, rather than having to.”

5.      Do you ever look at the .500 threshold in terms of wins and losses?

“No. It’s too early. My focus on us is playing with complete games and finishing games, getting better in every aspect every day we’re out there. We weren’t able to generate any offense tonight. We made a couple of mistakes on the mound, and paid for them and those are the things I am focusing on.”

6.      Evan Meek’s return back onto the mound and the bullpen

“It was very solid, I thought. I like the way that Crotta came back in and threw strikes, like the way Evan came in, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow, but it would be a big help to have him back in the back end of the bullpen again.”

7.      After being called back into Hurdle’s office for “not talking enough about the team losing the game”, the statement given by Hurdle:

“We’ve optioned Jason Jaramillo back to Indianapolis and we will activate Chris Snyder for tomorrow’s game.”

Kevin Correia

1.      The pitch to Prince Fielder

“I just hung it a little bit.”

2.      Overshadow five good innings you had?

“No, it was a bad pitch but it never should have gotten to that. I should have been out of the inning before that, and just one play with the pitcher. I didn’t field the ball the way I needed to, so it is what it is.”

3.      Think that bunt was going to go to Pedro?

“I had the line on that play, we’ve worked on it and worked on it. I threw the ball and I got over there, and I don’t know what, I think he just bunted it hard, and the grass kind of ate it up, but I’ve got to field that ball.”

4.      What do you make of your first few innings?

“I was pitching well, just getting outs. It only takes one inning, and I had a bad inning at a bad time.”

5.      Enjoying the pitching battle

“We had a good game plan and it was working, and I kind of went against it that inning, and I got hurt. I was staying with hard pitches down, and then I just flipped a curveball up there and I hadn’t thrown him that pitch yet, he was just on it.”

Jason Jaramillo

1.      Snyder

” I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on, obviously they had to make a move, so I’m going to go do my job, and try to get back up here as soon as possible.”

2.      Benefit for playing more

“I’ve feel like I’ve shown that I deserve to play here, and was doing a great job.”

3.      Take out of spring training

“The atmosphere and just what Clint has rubbed off of all of us and how much fun it is again. I’ve had a lot of fun here and learned a lot.”

Lyle Overbay

1.      On Marcum’s repertoire

“You don’t get to see what it does exactly, but I kind of have an idea of what he’s trying to do and he doesn’t make mistakes and when you’re down in the zone, you’re going to get a lot of groundballs, and he did a pretty good job tonight.”

2.      Did Marcum do anything differently than what you prepared?

“No. He’s going to throw that pitch down and away or he’ll mix it in, mix the cutter in, and throw the changeup and he’s got a good changeup. You’ve got to see it a couple of times, and realize how good it is.

3.      On Marcum’s velocity possibly being down

“Usually that’s where he’s at, 84-86. That’s just one of those things where it looks good coming in, and then all of a sudden, he gets such late movement that by the time it gets to your barrel, it’s moved off the plate and you’re hitting it off of the end instead of barreling it up.”

Joel Hanrahan

1.      How does it feel to be the closer?

“I feel good about it. Obviously, it’s an important three outs at the end of the game, and I feel like I can handle the job, and look forward to the opportunity.”

2.      How do you feel that you’ve matured as a closer?

“I think it’s a little early to tell that, but obviously my mindset is to go out there and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself, when before every out was a pressure situation where I kind of take that pressure off myself and just go out there and have fun.”

3.      What is the most important thing for you being in the closer’s role?

“Well there’s 24 other guys and eight coaches that are depending on me to finish the job and I just want to go out there and do it for everybody. It’s a team effort, and as long as we can all hold the lead in the ninth.

4.      Any more exhilarating feeling for you than just the 1-2-3 ninth inning?

“That’s a great day any day you can do that. It’s a long season, long year, and the games are kind of long themselves, so once you get those three outs, everybody’s kind of relaxed a little bit more, and it’s one of the best feelings you can earn that day.”

5.      Embracing Manager Hurdle’s all-in philosophy

“When I have a pair of pocket aces, I go all-in. You can tell that he’s definitely got our back, and that’s a big thing to know that a manager has your back, and it makes you want to play a little harder for him. We’re just trying to embrace everything that he’s trying to teach us, and use it out there in the game.”

6.      How have you guys have struggled at home but done well on the road, a change from the past couple of seasons. How have you changed your success on the road ?

“Back to the home part, it’s been a tough home series for us, where got in late Wednesday night, and then turn around and play on Thursday morning where that was our first time coming to Pittsburgh, and half the team it is their first time being in Pittsburgh, and the adjustment period of being settled into your apartment, and trying to get back to the normal life is not easy. Our goal on the road, is to go up there and change the things that we did last year, and we started off good with the first road trip, and obviously we need to both at home and on the road.”

7.      In your time, what have you made of the Pittsburgh-Milwaukee baseball rivalry?

“Well it’s kind of been one-sided and we need to do our part to turn that around. They’re a good swinging ballclub over there, and they’re going to play hard all of the time and we just need to step up a little bit against them.”

8.      What do you make of the incidents that happened at the ballpark this home stand?

“It’s stupid. There’s no reason for anybody to go on the field during the game, and I’m not going to come into your office and streak through your office, that would be just stupid, right? It puts us in danger, because you never know what could be happening. The thing that happened the other night, apparently the guy was drunk, so it’s not safe for anybody. Better him going home with the cops then getting behind the wheel of a car.”

9.      Anything else that you would like to add?

“No, I gotta go home bud.”

 

 

Notes about my media experience AKA this is last post until I post the interviews

1. I arrived around 3:30 and was the first in line for clubhouse access at 3:30. I saw a few players and Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said a quick and pleasant hello to me. Evan Meek then saw and remembered me and gave me a pound. Was he feeling better? I would think so, and he was available to pitch tonight and he pitched a 1-2-3 inning

2. I had no idea what to expect when I got into Clint Hurdle’s office. The only time I had ever seen an office was in Bob Knight’s autobiography, and his office was a MESS. I completely had no idea what was going to happen coming in and I had no idea who I would interview, and what I would ask. I walked in and saw Clint Hurdle waiting for us. We all put our recorders on the desk and asked questions of Clint. As a fan, it is easy to ask him a question, however I was a little overwhelmed by the situation. People were asking questions left and right, and I had no set gameplan and thus I just took it all in (no Clint Hurdle pun intended). The first question is always the hardest but when the postgame came, I got the last question and used it to talk about Evan Meek in the bullpen and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

 3. I then left the clubhouse and stayed on the field for all of Pirates BP.

 4. My first image of the field was all kinds of yellow jerseys, a large group likely the pitchers were in center with the players stretching directly in front of me by the third base side. I first was welcomed by Euclides Rojas and we shook hands. Pedro Alvarez, Rojas and Luis Silverio all were communicating to each other in Spanish. From what I saw the whole time of BP, Pedro was the LOUDEST of all of the players. Pedro then asked me a little later in English how I was and I tried to respond in Spanish to keep it going but he continued in English. Oh well, at least I tried to fit in.

 5. Andrew McCutchen then came on the field and he said hey to the Alvarez and Silverio and I totally expected him to walk past me. Everyone knows how I feel about Cutch, however at the ballpark, he is in his element, Mr. Personality. He was dancing in the outfield, singing along with Pedro in a girly voice during a song and usual antics. He actually said a “Hey boss” to me before quickly asking how I was, and responding to my reply. That likely was the best exchange we have ever had and I now respect him 1/22 more.

 6. Charlie Morton hit a BP homer and so did Paul Maholm who had to contend with the much tougher right field. The pitchers had a good laugh at Maholm’s expense when he hit five or six balls that hit the top of the cage and didn’t go much further. They had home run distance but kept connecting with the cage.

 7. When Pirates BP ended it started to get cooler than it already was and I just had a long sleeve dress shirt on. I went inside back into the press area. At this point, the players were changing and a saw a lot of bare body parts (nothing too graphic) and a lot of tattoos. Players were getting showers and they all were wearing sandals and hanging out. I decided to first interview Charlie Morton. Again, I had absolutely NO clue what I was going to ask anyone, and so I got the nerves out of the way pretty quickly. My first question to Morton was about the whole Electric Stuff buzz that was on Facebook and Twitter, and you will just have to wait for his response, but he was laughing and smiling the whole way which was the goal, to loosen him up. We talked about his new arm angle, comparisons to Roy Halladay, working on control of the arm angle, momentum and much more.

 Photo taken by Colston Cooper on a separate occasion

 8. An interview I really wanted to do was with Mike Crotta. I don’t hear much from the press about him and I wanted to really talk about his sinker and I was given that chance. It was an interesting interview and the sinker is the focal point of that interview. After this interview I went back to observe Brewers BP.

 Unrelated photo taken by my friend Kayla Thompson

 9. I tried to find out if they were going to increase security or do anything in response to the tasing, however I was told that nothing will be done. This confuses me, although next to no one would be/was at the game. It will be interesting to see if they consider changing in the future.

 10. After Brewers BP, I grabbed some dinner and then headed up to the press box, where I grabbed the pre-game sheets and then sat and enjoyed the game. I know what some people are thinking, and to answer your questions, yes I was able to watch the Penguins game as well, as it was on a TV right in front of me.

 11. The game had a very fast pace to it through the first few innings as both Kevin Correia and Brewers pitcher Shaun Marcum were pitching no-hitters, but Correia blinked first and then allowed a homer to Prince Fielder and the Pirates lost 6-0.

 12. Towards the end of the game I received a free media guide. The media guide much like the one I received in 11th grade was spiral bound. I also received a thumb drive which contained every MLB team’s 2011 media guide. I love reading the media guides and this is hours of great reading, and also potentially a lot of helpful ballhawking resources.

 13. I then went down with the rest of the press, and after the meeting with Hurdle and my question, we went into the clubhouse. We then were called back into Hurdle’s office where we were told that Chris Snyder would come up and Jason Jaramillo would be sent down. I am posting this again, just because I was one of a few people to first find out.

 14. We then interviewed Kevin Correia and I asked another question. Considering I heard that he was swearing upon entering the clubhouse, he was no problem in terms of speaking to.

 15. Jason Jaramillo agreed to his final interview before leaving Pittsburgh. He is sad not to be with the team but realizes that he likely will have more of a chance to play in Indy and hopes to be back up in Pittsburgh really soon.

 16. From there we all interviewed Lyle Overbay as he was a former teammate of Marcum’s.

 17. Things died down, and the other media members left for the night. I decided to spend one last interview being with Joel Hanrahan. We talked mainly about the closer position and also how he has grown as a closer and player since his Washington days.

 Photo taken Opening Day.

 18. It was an eventful and successful day for me, and not bad considering I had no gameplan coming in. I now know that I will need to plan for who I want to interview and at least have an idea of what to ask. Also there is a chance that I could get media credentials once a homestand, and that could be exciting.

 The next entry will be the transcript. What you just read before was a summary of what happened. There was quite a bit more, but you get the idea. Expect this next entry Friday or Saturday. I did take a decent amount of pictures, and I am unsure if I can get them to work or not.

4/9/11 Pirates vs Colorado Rockies PNC Park

 The Home Opener was great for me in every way besides the final score and from a ballhawking perspective, there were WAY too many fans and it made it tough to navigate and outfield toss-ups were seemingly out of the question. Still I snagged four balls and it was a great start.

 I decided to make my goal for this game the exact same as the last game; four balls. This would be a tall task, as I was still under the weather and with the weather not being as great as it was during the home opener not many home runs would be hit.

 I got to the ballpark quite early and was close to the front of the line and threw with Nick Pelescak and Erik Jabs on the Clemente Bridge. Both were at yesterday’s lengthy win against the Colorado Rockies but neither even came close to making it the distance as the weather got quite cold and most likely unbearable.

 The throwing on the Clemente Bridge was the first time I was able to get a ball in my glove, so I knew that I would be ready for anything this game had.

 Things got off to a rocky (again, no pun intended) start as I entered the ballpark rather quickly but with Erik and Nick ahead of me searching for Easter Eggs in the lower deck, I again went up to the bleacher general admission area and unfortunately found nothing. Erik and Nick each found a ball, right by the bullpen so I almost certainly would not have had anything anyways.

 The Pirates portion of BP was rather slow for me, as all kinds of lefties came up. I always love a fellow lefty but myself and the other Pirates season ticket holders are only allowed in left field for the first half hour on weekdays and hour on weekends so this was bad. Pirates BP is likely not going to contribute much to my cause as only Matt Diaz really has the capability to hit the ball into the left field bleachers with much regularity. Hopefully Chris Snyder can come back soon so we have another reliable right presence to fill up our gloves.

 I got shut out during the Pirates portion of BP because of this as well as because there were lots of girls and kids and they got all of the toss-ups so quite a slow time for me.

 I quickly changed into my Rockies gear and sneaked up to the second level where I walked to the baseline box seating area. I actually could relax here, since the pitchers were only starting the long toss. I then realized that I had made another mistake, I had left my roster it home. It wouldn’t help anyways since almost all of the players had their numbers covered, but any little tidbit of information I can use is always appreciated.

 So there were a couple of reasons why I made the trek to the baseline area. For one, nothing really otherwise was happening. That night’s pitcher Greg Reynolds was hitting and he doesn’t have the power to hit it into the left field bleachers and no one was there to toss us baseballs. Also, when someone does a long toss, there is a great chance for an overthrow and a baseball so for me, the decision was obvious.

 Many of the Rockies pitchers were at different stages. I got into the wheelchair portion of section 1, and had my glove and waited for an overthrow.

 As this happened I ran into my buddy Matt Lindstrom who ended up getting the save later on in the game. I call him my buddy because he was responsible for two important and historic snags of mine. He gave me ball number 69 last season which allowed me to meet the fifth goal I had set for myself last season of 64 baseballs, and also was my last ball of the season. He also gave me ball number 71 which put me over 70 and was the first player I ever got two balls from in two different uniforms.

 Looking back at it now, I can’t help but realize how similar this moment felt to my 64th snag. The only possible difference besides the team was that I had the section entirely to myself.

 Lindstrom struck a conversation with me as he did with the other two snags and said, “You may want to move back, these balls are coming fast and you may get hurt.” This was the first time in three conversations that he was not sarcastic to me and my first worry upon seeing him was that he would remember me from Thursday especially since I had the same outfit minus my yellow Pirates themed shoes I had on because I didn’t have room for my blue ones.

 Lindstrom then told me, “Don’t worry, I will throw you a ball”. I found this all weird, because I did appreciate him telling me to be careful, but I had a glove and can catch and I would not have put myself that close to the action unless I was sure that I was safe.

 Still I waited and sure enough Lindstrom called me out and threw me a ball. The toss was terribly underthrown but with no one around me I walked forward and picked up ball number 1.

 I was still well behind the mark and needed to make at least one more snag. Enter Esmil Rogers. Rogers was the starter on Thursday for the Rockies and he was throwing with what looked to be Rafael Betancourt. When the two came to wrap up their session, Betancourt uncorked a wild and high throw which I fielded. Before Rogers had much time to think, I threw him back the ball. The toss was a little wobbly and feeble, but practically every toss is after you see how hard and accurate they throw the ball. After they finished, Rogers turned to me and fired ball number 2. The ball itself was my 75th career snag and put me only 25 more snags away from the century mark.

 I then played center field for the Rockies portion of BP. Nothing much came our way home run wise and no matter how hard I tried none of the toss-ups were going my way. I even started to try to ask Ubaldo Jimenez to throw me the ball in Spanish and my voice is shot.

 Frustrated mostly because nothing was coming my way, I decided to take on the challenge of right field. I was right about where I expected to be and figured a change of scenary could better things. There were quite a few homers hit to right so I figured why not give it a shot. The last ball of bp was a homer to right, but I was a couple of rows low and a section away and could not make up the ground fast enough. With that BP was over and I had to assess the situation.

 Things were not looking bleak for a four ball day quite yet as there still was potential. Colston, my friend who also went to the game did a full walk of the second floor. We said a nice hello to a family friend for a while and then continued on. The new main attraction is a store with Pirates memorabilia with Hunt Auctions. The prices were ludicris, seriously $60 for a Clint Hurdle signed baseball. $110 for a signed Andrew McCutchen? Really? I didn’t even give it a serious look after that, I find that to be so insulting and you would have to be a moron to overpay that badly. Ok, I digress, this is a post about my ballhawking.

 We finally made it to the bullpen and waited for Charlie “Electric Stuff” Morton to grace us with his sinker and his presence. After a while he did and although I tried I did not get any toss-ups from either him or the seemingly always reliable Herbie Andrade.

 Defeated, I went to my seat and re-assessed my situation. I was still at two balls, an average fan has not snagged two baseballs in their entire time yet in less than two short years, my outlook on this has drastically changed. I was going to have to snag an Andrew McCutchen toss-up and then get some help from the bullpen. The centerfield sections were all packed which meant that being in section 141, I had only one chance to get the toss-up.

 McCutchen had the toss-ups in the odd innings, and I paid close attention to where he threw the baseball both times so I could position myself properly.

 Before the fifth inning toss-up though, I tried my luck at the bullpen and that did not work so well. The bullpen was never crowded at all that entire night which I have never experienced, and sure enough I always was given the best spot I possibly could have, I just was dealt every bad card in the deck. I came over twice before the McCutchen toss-up, and left again sprinting to center to choose my position.

 Erik had already chosen his position and the spot I was eying actually was still there. It was directly behind the last row before the two steps leading to the section. There was not anyone in those seats so I was in the clear. When it came time for McCutchen to toss it up, I had a good vibe. His throw sailed to my right and was short and it was going to take a miracle. I tracked the path of the ball and at least two people bobbled it. For once, the ball bounced right into my waiting glove for the luckiest ball number three that I will ever have.

 I still have not gone to bed yet, and as I type this part of the blog it is 1:25 AM here in Pittsburgh and I am running on empty. As a journalist it is something that I am actually quite used to.

 There is a reason why I am probably not fast asleep right now. Outfielder Seth Smith hit a home run to right center to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead in that top part of the fifth and it was very close to where I was standing. It would have been a rather easy catch, not nearly as easy as the Hunter Pence home run I described in a previous blog post, because this one was on the fly, but there would have been no competition for it. As it stands, the ball two hopped into the river where it hit either a boat or a raft or something like that.

 As the night continued, it got colder and colder and I only had a Pirates t-shirt and Pirates Dugout Jacket to warm my body. I was by the bullpen as I had no chance to snag another toss up as right field was packed, left field was packed and Jose Tabata just throws it without much care and center was still packed. I was trying to snag a ball, when a lot of noise came from the bleacher general admission area.

 Earlier a few people were thrown out of the ballpark in that area and were escorted by police. This time a man was not cooperating after a few police took him down the stairs and they beat and tased him before arresting him. This led to a lot of people in that area chanting many things such as “U-S-A! U-S-A!”. The police threatened to beat others who interfered with them and I saw a lot of this happen as I was close by in the bullpen area. The police took a good handful or so of people to the Riverwalk where one woman was arrested and a man who took a couple of steps to oppose the decision and defend her was almost beaten himself. The section in general was just drunk out of their minds and it impaired their decision making abilities. It was quite sad to watch especially after a fan ran onto the field on Thursday’s game. As an aside, one woman was so drunk that when she was arrested, she couldn’t walk and thus had to be taken out on a wheelchair.

 I still had business of my own to tend to. The Pirates would go on to lose the game 6-4 despite a nice attempt at a rally in the ninth inning against my “buddy” Lindstrom. After the game was over I wanted to snag my fourth ball to meet my goal. I had already given one ball away and saw a very young kid and immediately wanted to give this ball away too. I saw a ball in Euclides Rojas’ glove and neither Rojas nor Herbie would initially throw it despite calling their names. The kid was still there and I assured his mother that I would try my best to get it.

 I finally got a hold of Herbie, and explained to him that the ball would be for the kid and sure enough he underhanded it to me for an easy ball number four. I immediately made sure to give it to the kid and he was so excited and had the biggest smile on his face. His parents seemed just as happy as he was and it clearly was his first ball. Thanks Herbie!

 Just like that, I reached my goal for the game. Every second literally counted as it took until after the game was over to get there. There was potential for more snags of course but through two days of snagging while ill, I had snagged four balls on both days for a total of eight baseballs. Last year I started with four in two games and already I am well ahead of that margin. I likely need to get 21 by the end of the month, so this is a good start and I am more than 33% of the way there.

 My next day of ballhawking will either be on Wednesday or Thursday and I am not sure as to which one. There is a chance that I will be a media member on Wednesday and if I am, then obviously I will not ballhawk. If I am not, I will purchase a ticket to that game and ballhawk. Then on Thursday, I can ballhawk from 5:00 until 5:30 and then I will be whisked away and be named Season Ticket Holder of the Month. Also on Tuesday, I will snag on the Riverwalk outside of the stadium. This takes a lot of focus and luck, but if I get lucky, then I could end up with a baseball or two. Here’s hoping that Prince Fielder hits the cover off of the ball.

Total Baseballs Snagged: 8

Total Baseballs Given Away: 3

Games Attended: 2

4/7/11 Opening Day PNC Park

 I was getting over a nasal drip and allergies but despite being told that the game was “sold out”, I bought my ticket from Point Park University.

 It all came down to a good night’s sleep so after watching Survivor, I immediately went to bed to get that extra half-hour of sleep.

 I then fulfilled my obligations, and ended up contributing to a university radio show for two hours before getting some final preparations for the game in and then making the short walk from Point Park to PNC Park.

 I fully expected a line to back all the way until the street but the line was not nearly as long. I actually cut to the front of the line with all of the ballhawks, and no one complained which is great.

 I slowly but surely caught up with a lot of the ballhawks starting with Harold, Jim Saylor and Ian Weir before quickly jogging down the steps and trying to play homers off of the riverwalk.

 The Pirates had started BP early, because of the on-field activities scheduled for 12:40. The gates were expected to open at 11:30 so needless to say, us ballhawks were not pleased. During my couple of minutes down there after the long jog, I was beaten to a ball by both Erik and Nick and my reactions were not great.

 Still this was a game that I initially did not commit to, and thus this would be a strike (no pun intended) extra for me.

 Going into the game I want to snag at least three. That was what I snagged last season in my ballhawking debut, and I want an overall average of three or higher to make my ballhawking goal.

 Erik, Nick and I all went up early in hopes that the ballpark would open at 11 and it did. I got in just ahead of Ian and behind Erik and Nick. The familiar sprint was something I missed a lot and I started searching the lower portions of left field for easter eggs but was coming up empty. This was when the light bulb clicked. I decided to search the second deck as no one was up there.

 This ended up being a wise move, as when I went up, I saw a white speck and sure enough I was on the board with ball number 1. It was just too easy, and in fact I could not have asked for more. I was not feeling great and to get on the board like that brought a smile to my face. I quickly surveyed the ball and saw that it had a decent sized hole in it which meant that someone must have had a lot on their swing. I have no idea who hit it, but just for the heck of it will say Tabata.

 The first Evan Meek sighting of the 2011 season occurred after he threw a ball to Erik and Nick and actually said, “It’s 1-1 who’s going to come out on top”.He said that he would get us all later and I jokingly responded, “I thought what we had was something special” which drew a laugh out of him. He obviously knows/is more than willing to contribute to our collections.

 I did not get lucky though and he never tossed me up one. Also fans decided to sit in the most random places in left field and just blocked my path towards everything. It was very annoying and I swore quite a few times under my breath as it was clearly amateur hour. For obvious reasons, I will not repeat what I said on this blog, but it is ridiculous, we have gloves and moving around you just makes it that much harder and more likely for somebody to get hurt.

 I also was trying to take pictures for the blog and missed out on two snags which easily could have been mine, and at that point I thought that I was doomed.

 Pirates BP ended and I got nothing else, and I got quite upset as I changed into my Rockies gear. I knew that my chances of getting to my goal were getting more slim by the second as the sellout crowd of 39,219 fans filed into the stadium.

 I started out Rockies BP in left field and was coming up empty handed and decided to move my efforts to center field. After some time in center, nothing was happening and I was trying to figure out what to do. Left field was packed at this point and it would have been very hard to be mobile and right field was tough, so I decided to stay.

 Shortly after, an unknown Rockies player hit a ball to the warning track. I lined it up and knew that this was my chance. I had the corner spot in center and lined it up. Now I had a new glove and it was broken in very well but this was the first test of my new glove. I never had a chance to throw with anyone because I was sick and the weather was terrible. Also no one was throwing when I showed up. So this was it, and in short I blew it.

 The ball did a one hopper into my glove and it just fell out. To make matters worse, the fans in center let out a collective groan. The third bit of bad news was who saw it. Matt Lindstrom threw me my 64th and final ball of the 2010 season, and now he was a Rockies reliever. Would he remember me? No was the answer, but he provided another memorable moment.

 I asked Matt if he could help me out and toss me up the ball. He legitimately told me “You dropped it”. That was his actual quote and he mockingly sounded like a first grader. After the “grief” that Lindstrom gave me, he softly tossed up ball number 2.

 I then decided to go for the trifecta and challenge myself. I would ballhawk in right field. I only did this a couple of times last year and it did not go well. I think I will ballhawk a little more there especially with some of the hitters that the NL Central has. I first went up and chatted with Big Yellow, Randy Page. The last I had seen him, was when he came onto my radio show for a couple of segments to talk Pirates baseball, so of course it was great to see him.

 Of course once I went to right field, the Rockies hit a cold spell. I think maybe one of their hitters even made it over the wall during their entire BP time.

 I of course shifted my position and then of course is when that one home run came, right in a place where if I was situated in my previous spot, then I would have been able to snag it.

 Still a short time later, an unknown Rockies player had a ball close to the warning track and being the only person remotely close to wearing Rockies gear, I thought that I had a chance to snag it. It ended up that the player threw a terrible toss and it started to go down the stairway in the section I was in. I was closest to the steps and sprinted down the steps getting the ball ahead of five others chasing the ball and thus met my goal with ball number 3.

 I left right field after the snag, and moved back to center. I did contemplate chasing foul balls but the Rockies weren’t hitting many out. Troy Tulowitzki was hitting some balls out to left but not many people were able to move to try and get the snag so it got swallowed up by a sea of hands. I came close to a snag of a homer in center. It took a huge bounce and if the guy who snagged it had bobbled it, I would have made an easy snag, but it was not to be.

 Rockies BP ended a few minutes after and then the waiting game began. I clumsily looked for my bag that I had left in left field for five minutes until I found that it was moved down.

 I then headed to the bullpen, which ended up being my seat for the whole game, because I did not want to sit in my designated seat in the bleacher general admission area.

 I was able to watch Paul Maholm warm up which never gets old but he put the baseball in his back pocket and thus I did not get the toss up. I quickly grabbed my things, and moved over to the fenced area right by the bullpen as I knew how the whole move to that area thing would work and I looked quite smart as I got the closest spot that I could.

 Closer to the middle of the game, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas got my attention. He explained to me that he was going to throw me a ball but to give it to the little child standing to my left. I agreed and he threw me a nice easy to catch ball and I snagged it for ball number four. I immediately gestured a thank you with my glove and with him watching, quickly gave it to the child. I half expected him to throw another my way, but it was not to be.

 I then stood and enjoyed the game, and nothing else snagging wise came my way.

 Let me correct myself for a second, there was not much to enjoy about the game as the Pirates lost 7-1.

 The highlight of the game at least according to fan applause was a fan who in the ninth inning went onto the field. Two security guards responded a little late, but got on the field. I was surprised that only those two, who were stationed in right field were the only two out. The man encouraged the crowd and the ovation grew louder when he deked a security guard and made him fall onto the grass. Eventually though he was contained and the security person by the bullpen said that the man would be fined $500. The fans all cheered him amidst taking cell phone videos, and a minute or two later Pirates reliever Jose Veras mimiced the man’s actions.

 Lastly, the pregame stuff was all nice as the Pirates spent the majority of the time honoring Chuck Tanner who recently passed away. Also Jeff Banister was given the “Pride of the Pirates” Award. Former Pirates Manager and current Rockies Manager Jim Tracy, went out onto the field today with a mixed reaction although I would say that at least 80% of that reaction was in a negative direction.

 My next game will be on Saturday against these same Rockies, and Mr. Electric Stuff himself Charlie Morton is expected to go. I was supposed to be interviewed by my school paper but that will not happen. Hopefully I will be able to catch with the glove on Saturday before the game.

 

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