Results tagged ‘ Houston Astros ’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luis Silverio’s son throwing

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

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

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

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

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

What better way to cool down on a hot day?

Welcome back once again Chris!

You always have to respect the lifers.

7/5/12

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ball #4 involved a good amount of luck.

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

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

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

Riverwalk fun

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

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

Well…

So after a nice walk, here we were.

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

Then we saw ballhawk Max win a BluRay

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

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

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

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

Pirates vs Astros 7/2 PNC Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From left: Wilton Lopez, Wandy Rodriguez and Javier Bracamonte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Wilton for making my day.

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

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

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

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

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

I went and got to see Steve Adams from Pitt.

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

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

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

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

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.

NL Central Predictions

 I figured that since the season is less than a month ago, I would post this quick entry with predictions for the NL Central this season.

6. Houston Astros (63-99)- True the Astros have Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, Bill Hall and Clint Barnes but that is not enough. Chris Johnson leads what perhaps is the worst infield in baseball. Brett Myers had a great season last year and is joined by old Phillies teammate J.A. Happ, but the offense will sputter and not give them the leads they need. Manager Brad Mills, had the tough and unenviable job of trying to manage a team that traded away Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman last season and did well, but lightning does not strike twice.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates (65-97)- The Pirates are just a hair better than the Astros. The Pirates were finally buyers in the free agent market signing Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz and Scott Olsen to name a few. The Pirates also hired Clint Hurdle to be the team’s Manager and he will be passionate and perhaps bring out the best in this Pirates team. Pitching will be a huge issue as the Pirates offense does not score much which adds pressure on the starters. Either Paul Maholm or James McDonald likely will be the ace of the team and neither is an ace by any means. Other huge problem is that the Pirates cannot win on the road. They will have to if they want success this season.

4. Chicago Cubs (77-85)- Chicago has improved especially with the acquision of Matt Garza, however much of their core is aging. Alfonso Soriano struggles defensively and will strikeout a ton while Ramirez faced a lot of injuries last season. Carlos Zambrano had issues of his own last season, however when he came back was as close to lights out as the Cubs had. Ryan Dempster will be the ace of this team and he is good but not great. Look out for Starlin Castro this season, I think the power numbers will go up, thus making him a complete player.

3. St. Louis Cardinals (85-77)- I honestly had the Cardinals in first place until Adam Wainwright got injured. He will be out for the whole season, and thus they fall to third. They missed the playoffs last year and will just miss again. One player normally does not make the difference, but the irreplaceable Wainwright was a 20 game winner last year and a 19 game winner in 2009. Each team in the NL Central besides the Astros and Cardinals has improved this off-season and that will come to bite the Cardinals. The division is that close this season, and both Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday will have slight regressions this season. Chris Carpenter is also banged up and considering his past that is not a good thing.

2. Milwaukee Brewers (88-74)- Milwaukee easily improved the most in the NL Central this off-season. Their weakness has been pitching as the team has relied solely at times on Yovani Gallardo. Now the Brewers have made a weakness a potential strength acquiring Shaun Marcum from Toronto and Zack Greinke from Kansas City. While Greinke is likely to land on the DL now, he will definitely help this team this season and the city of Milwaukee should not pressure him. I am a little concerned that they are going to disappoint especially with new manager Ron Roenicke now at the helm. We shall see how it turns out.

1. Cincinnati Reds (90-72)- Yes despite all of this fire power, only one team makes it to 90 wins, and just barely. No one is talking about the Reds this season. They if possible are once again going under the radar. Manager Dusty Baker knows what he is doing and MVP Joey Votto will have another great season. The pitching staff has a lot of options and don’t forget that Aroldis Chapman and his 105 mile-per-hour fastball are still in Cincy. The team improved signing World Series MVP Edgar Renteria to play shortstop. This was a great signing and at worst, Renteria who will replace Orlando Cabrera can provide some nice veteran leadership.

 

9/26 Pirates vs Houston Astros PNC Park

 I arrived early and the gates for some reason were already opened. Unfortunately the access to the seating bowl was shut.

 I had to stand and wait for the gate to open. Sure enough Herbie Andrade, Ray Searage and a couple of pitchers came to the bullpen. My glove was on and without asking, Herbie threw me up ball number 1 on the day. Thank you so much Herbie for a great season!

                                                            

 With this snag, I was one ball away from achieving my goal.

 It would come when the Astros were throwing. I aggressively got closer Matt Lindstrom’s attention and he threw me ball number 2 on the day. I now had ball number 64 and I could relax!!!

                                                                                                                     

 My body felt worse and worse as the game wore on and I developed a severe headache during the game and it affected me greatly. I lost out on the Hunter Pence home run as the ball bounced back and I was boxed out.

 I went to my third base seat towards the end of the game and home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth. I was hoping for a baseball but he only had two and two kids were in front of me. He told me, “I’m sorry I don’t have any more baseballs but I can give you these line up cards”. He gave me both teams line up cards and I thanked him.

                                                             

                                                                                    

 I tried to get the players toss ups as they were tossing up signed hats but I wasn’t able to get any hat.

That is all for this season. My next entry will be of my Season Ticket Holder Field Day which is Monday, October 4.

9/25 Pirates vs Houston Astros

 Considering that I had set a goal of 64 baseballs by the end of the homestand, things would be tough.

 I was not present for Friday’s game and by Saturday I was sick with a runny nose and sore throat. I had to go to today’s game and work through my illness.

 I quickly ran into the seating area in left field. Both Ian Weir and Nick Pelescak searched the lower seating bowl and thus I went to the top seating bowl because I got a tip from two of the ushers. A Pirates reliever then randomly threw a ball up to my area and I was a few rows up. With nobody else up there I got the ball but because I was getting ball number 1, ball number 2 would not have a person who threw it. Upon coming down the steps, I saw that I had missed a ball and ball number 3 was quickly mine. This put me at 60 baseballs on the year.

 That would be all that I got for the Pirates portion of bp. I snuck over early for the Astros portion of bp and asked both Jeff Fulchino and an Astros coach for a ball and they both declined my request. I decided to change things up and play for foul balls, and thus balls number 4 and 5 went into my glove.

 I also got three signatures in Michael Bourn, Jason Bourgeois and Nelson Figueroa.

 That was all in terms of snagging as I failed to snag the first inning Andrew McCutchen toss up because the ball was under thrown and I got it with the bottom part of my glove and people were playing with my glove.

 I did get to pose with the Songwhale prize of a signed Neil Walker bat but I do not have that picture yet.

 I did go to Fan Appreciation Day and I needed two baseballs to reach my goal. Did I get it? You’ll have to read on to find out.

7/16/10 Pirates vs Houston Astros PNC Park

After yet another long week, I decided to cap it off at PNC Park with my free Pittsburgh Baseball Club ticket (my second one this year). With the All-Star Break over, I was expecting a large amount of snags for this game.

            While I left on time with my friend, we hit a lot of traffic and parked further away than usual, meaning I would have to run to get to the park and get a whiff of BP.

            Fortunately I made it with a little time to spare, and of course I nearly got shut out. The sun made things very hard to see and my only saving grace was All-Star Evan Meek who saw my glove and threw me a ball. The ball was surprisingly under thrown and I had to quickly react and made a lunging underhanded catch for ball number 1.

            The Astros batting practice brought nothing but frustration, as I have no Astros colors and also was unable to get any tossups despite asking a player for a ball in Spanish on multiple occasions.

            The sun still was a major detriment to me, and I was unable to really locate any baseballs.

            It also hurt that I had found three bullpen balls and I was unable to get any of them. I noticed the first ball in the bullpen after the Pirates finished BP, and D.J. Carrasco did not respond to my request and the ball remained where it was. I then asked a grounds crew man and he said that he couldn’t move the ball. I then left in favor of centerfield and better snagging opportunities but upon returning and getting nothing, I saw that the ball had vanished.

            I then talked to Nick of BHL and he was also victimized by the sun catching a BP home run and then dropping it. He would redeem himself later on.

            After the conversations, I noticed two more balls lying in the bullpen, with the police officer by the bullpen and I pretty much felt like I had the ball or even balls in the bag. I saw the officer go into the bullpen and asked very nicely but again was denied. Frustrated, I uttered a couple of expletives and moved on.

            It was at this point that my friend had arrived and was surprised to see my snag. I on the other hand was not pleased with myself as I felt I should have had at least three snags by now.

            Still undeterred, my friend moved into the PBC Club while I stayed in the hot hot heat. I decided to move towards the dugout as the outfield was not working for me. This move did not work out either. It was then when I noticed that my leg was a bit bloody because of the obnoxious people who just sit in the outfield. Honestly, you should just stay out unless you are trying to catch baseballs; you have no business being in there.

            I then played Press Your Buc on the Songwhale booth and came up with a whammy. It was then when I saw my vendor friend who actually got to be a vendor at the All-Star game and we had a nice conversation.

            I then walked over to the PBC Club and spun the Prize Wheel and again ended up with a $6 coupon, but because they didn’t mark my ticket I was able to spin again later. At this point I met up with my friend and we took our seats.

            I ate my dinner and no foul balls came up despite my being ready. Later on in the hotdog toss a hot dog came into our section but unfortunately it went well to the left of me and was snagged by an obnoxious buffoon in my section.

            Quickly recovering from the stinging defeat of free hotdogs, I whipped out my new phone and sent my first text message in an attempt to win a signed Ryan Doumit Pirates hat. I then decided to go down to centerfield to snag a tossup during the fourth inning.

            This allowed me to spin the prize wheel once again and I won a Ryan Doumit bobble head which I gave to Nick as I already had one. He told me that the tossups were all messed up and soon after Andrew McCutchen threw the ball to left centerfield and Milledge tossed the ball a little too short and I continued to stay at one baseball.

            I then received a text from Songwhale which said that I won the Doumit cap and I immediately got it. I then decided that I needed to try and get a second ball and went to the bullpen.

            I was stuck in the middle of the bullpen but a few minutes later I was much closer although I had to stick my head in the middle of a gate and it barely fit. Sean Gallagher went up to warm up and soon after was called back, but I was unable to get Herbie Andrade’s attention due to the end of the inning break activities. Gallagher and Evan Meek then warmed up and I quickly called to new catcher Erik Kratz and unfortunately he ignored me. Meek then was called back but he tossed a baseball to a couple of girls but when I asked him for a ball I motioned with my glove and he waved at me thinking that I said hi. I then asked Herbie again and quickly he tossed up ball number 2.

            I then thanked him and went up to the Hall of Fame Club as I wanted to get Dave Parker to sign my baseball as he was a celebrity bartender for the day. After a good ten minutes and another great talk with Dave Arrigo (one of the Pirates photographers) I got “The Cobra” to sign my baseball. I then had a nice five minute chat with Pirates radio personality Rocco DeMaro about my fantasy team and many other topics.

            I then went back up to the PBC Club and soon after met up with my friend, who I immediately gave baseball number 2 to. He had needed a ball for autographs and it was a fairly clean ball. A foul ball then came up to our section, but because my friend was blocking the way, I had no way of catching the ball. This angered me.

            After the game, a loss; we went back to the Hall of Fame Club where my friend got his ball signed by Parker and then we watched the Pirates postgame radio show Extra Innings, hosted by Rocco DeMaro and at the end of the show left.

            I will be at the ballpark on both Tuesday and Saturday of this week but I am not expecting much on Saturday’s game as I expect it to be a sellout due to the Steve Miller Band concert.

The 2nd Annual Pirates Awards

 This idea started last year, when I realized that no Pirate would get any actual awards. I was semi-wrong when Nate McLouth took the Gold Glove award, but that award has a criteria that is very flawed. While Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones have chances at Rookie of the Year Award honors, it seems unlikely that it will happen. With that said, here are the nominees and winners of this year’s Pirate Awards.

 Team MVP:

1. Andrew McCutchen- It only makes sense that we start off with the team’s leadoff hitter. His dazzling speed and late game heroics made fans out of many. He is in the team’s plans for the long haul.

2. Garrett Jones- GFJ is up here because quite frankly, he was a joy to watch. He hit the most home runs among rookies and he was versitile playing first base as well as left and right field. While he is an old rookie because he was stuck behind Justin Morneau on the Twins, he never let that faze him.

3. Ross Ohlendorf- Ross pitched very well all season for the Pirates earning a team leading 11 victories. While he did not pitch the entire season due to inning limitations, Ohlendorf showcased his stuff especially in the second half of the season.

4. Zach Duke- Duke made a 5 game improvement this season winning 10 games this year. He also is an accomplished hitter, and if you don’t believe me, then watch him during batting practice at the ballpark. Duke was able to locate his fastball much better this season making himself much more effective this season.

The Winner: Andrew McCutchen

 Cutch gets the award, because he was consistent all season long. Duke led the league in losses this year because of a lack of run support, but his earned run average started to pile on as the season continued. Ohlendorf was inconsistent for half of a season, and Jones was terrible when it came to hitting with runners on. You kind of knew what you would get with Cutch, and thus he is the team’s MVP.

 

 

 Team LVP:

1. Brandon Moss- While he won the starting right field job in April, he never really showed promise. While he was clutch for a short while in August, most of the time fans groaned and booed when he came to bat. The only reason he is still a Pirate is because if he were sent to Triple-A another team may claim him.

2. Brian Bixler- Another year gone, same Bixler. He shows all kinds of potential in Triple-A, but always appears overmatched in the Majors. In that sense he is very much like John Van Benschoten. Not much to write about him because plain and simple, he is just not that good.

3. Ryan Doumit- Doumit was doing a decent job catching in April, and then he got injured. While he is a leader on this team, it seems as if he does not practice what he preaches. He argued with John Russell and he did not really do anything positive that opened eyes when he returned.

4. Matt Capps- This was not the “Big Bull Rider” that I know. He was just inconsistent this season and he was a total mess.

The “Winner” (?): Matt Capps

 Capps just was not the same this year. He just didn’t save games consistently for us and if there was not a save situation (please see games against Phillies, Dodgers, etc..), he was atrocious. I don’t get why the Pirates are going to give him an offer this offseason.

 

 Most Improved:

1. Zach Duke- He seemed more in control than I ever remember. He nearly pitched four complete games to tie for the NL lead (thanks John Russell) and was the best offensive pitcher.

2. Ross Ohlendorf- Wow, what a change a year makes. “Ross the Boss” went back and forth on using his sinker or his fastball, and his mix confused the hitters facing him. In the second half of the season, hitters did not want to face Ross Ohlendorf.

3. Andy LaRoche- A year ago he was below the Adam LaRoche line, and now, he has come back to be the player I thought he was. Offensively, he led the team in runs batted in with 62, and he very well could be the National League’s best defensive third baseman thanks in large part to Perry Hill.

 The Winner: Ross Ohlendorf

 I wrote on this blog last year that Ross Ohlendorf was the worst September call up. I wrote that he was visibly overmatched, and that he should not be a starter let alone be on the Pirates. I can now admit that I am wrong, and I am proud to do so. He led the team in games won easily passing Paul Maholm’s 2008 total of 9 and thus wins the award.

 

  Moment of the Year:

1. Taking 2 out of 3 from the Phillies- Many in Pittsburgh, myself included thought that the Pirates had no shot against the Phils. Afterall, we had struggled against them at Citizens Bank Park, and it was clear that they were the more superior team. Still an Andrew McCutchen walk off sparked the team and they stunned the Phillies taking the series against them.

2. Taking 3 of 4 from the Dodgers- Just like the scenario before this one, LA dominated us at their ballpark and there was not much expectation here. Still we took 3 out of 4 from a team that advanced to the NLCS and still has a shot of winning the World Series. That is pretty cool if you ask me.

3. Triple Play vs Cincy- It was just a spur of the moment kind of thing, but luck struck for the Pirates, and although they lost the game, it has to be on the highlight reel. You can’t deny the pop fly caught by Jack Wilson, who tossed to Freddy Sanchez, who tossed to Adam LaRoche to complete the triple play. You also can’t deny the fact that none of them are wearing a Pirates uniform any more.

The Winner: Taking 3 of 4 from the Dodgers

 This was almost as tough as deciding the MVP winner, and there were a ton more nominees I could choose from. It’s just before that series we were on a massive losing streak and we had just had a game were just about 3,000 fans attended and the upper deck was closed. It also captured the image of a 4 run ninth inning to win the third game of the series as well as Zach Duke pitching a near perfect game to win the final game of the series.

 Best Midseason Acquisition:

1. Hunter Strickland- Simply put he combined to pitch a no-hitter almost immediately after being acquired. The last time I heard no-hitter here was 1997.

2. Lastings Milledge- Although he did not make immediate impact, causing many fans to want Nyjer Morgan back, Milledge came around, having a wonderful September and making a believer out of Pirates fans.

3. Tim Alderson- Although some were confused by him getting traded for Freddy Sanchez, Alderson has quality stuff and more importantly great potential.

 The Winner: Tim Alderson

 I am fairly excited by his potential, and I think he can be a front end starter. It would have been hard to keep Freddy financially and the trade worked to our advantage as Freddy got injured while playing for the Giants.

 Most Improved in Minors:

1. Daniel McCutchen- He led triple-A in wins when he got his September call up, and after getting adjusted to pitching in the Majors did a decent job for the team.

2. Rudy Owens- The Pirates Minor League pitcher of the year showed promise and could be a star for years to come.

3. Starling Marte- He had a nice record and he always got my attention. He made me want to read what happened in the Minors every day.

 The Winner: Daniel McCutchen

 I got a decent look at him in September, and I think he could be either the fifth starter or long reliever. He has been with Ross Ohlendorf seemingly every where he goes, so why can’t he be the most improved next year?

 Worst September call up?

1. Brian Bixler- I mean come on, why bring up Bixler. He is overmatched and is a liability defensively. Need I say more?

2. Neil Walker- I love his potential but it just wasn’t there offensively.

3. Virgil Vasquez- Didn’t fair well when he was first called up, so why did you call him up?

4. Eric Hacker- Had only three appearances and his first had exactly one person clap to welcome him. Did I mention that the game was at PNC Park? Oh and his ERA? 6.00.

 The “Winner” (??): Brian Bixler

 Just a waste of breath and space. It is rare when he plays, and even rarer that he does something right.

 

  Best Broadcaster:

1. Bob Walk- Has a great sense of humor and can be fairly random. With the team we have, funny and random is good.

2. Tim Neverett- He replaced Lanny Frattare (retirement) and although I was expecting the worse, he did a nice job. Needs to work a bit more on saying things in different ways.

3. Greg Brown- Everytime I hear him, there always is a “gees” in whatever he is saying. Not a bad “voice of the Pirates” though.

4. Steve Blass- Last year’s winner was honored for his decades long ties to the team.

 The Winner: Bob Walk

 It’s got to be Bob Walk, he easily takes it this year.

 Most Surprising:

1. Delwyn Young- I wasn’t expecting much from him because of what we traded away to get him, but we got a steal. This guy is an ideal utility man because he can play everywhere in the field, but he has a solid bat to go with it.

2. Zach Duke- Pretty much everything said above goes here as well.

3. Garrett Jones- You saw what he did in Spring Training, but did you really think he would make it to the Pirates, let alone go on such a tear?

 The Winner: Garrett Jones

 Jones went from a nobody to a somebody. No one expected this out of Jones.

Garrett Jones, take me to the river! by Dave's Family Fotos.

  Best Performance:

1. McCutchen’s three HR game: It was nice to see Cutch rake since he is not known for his power. The curtain call has to be one of the highlights of the season.

2. Duke’s complete game home opener: I was in the Lexus Club, and I saw Duke in total control of the Astros all game long. The fist pump he made after the final out told the whole story.

3. Craig Monroe hits two three run home runs vs. the Braves: Monroe, who no longer is a Pirate, seemed to have a thing for three run home runs in his short time with us.

4. Andy LaRoche’s perfect day vs. his former team: I can’t think of any thing better than going five for five with two home runs against your former team.

 The Winner: Zach Duke’s Home Opener

 Just total control from start to finish. The Astros never stood a chance. It also is worth a mention that Duke had a double that game too.

 

 Coach of the Year:

1. Joe Kerrigan- He transformed many players from Zach Duke to Ross Ohlendorf. He also was loyal to his guys and was the only guy who really stood up for Ian Snell (before Snell blamed him for his problems).

2. Don Long- His extra time spent with Delwyn Young seemed to pay off and in some of the series against big time teams, his work showed with the comebacks and walk offs.

3. Tony Beasley- Despite a death in the family, “Beas” pressed on, and did a solid job.

4. Perry Hill- Although it seems unlikely that Perry Hill will come back to the Pirates, he transformed Andy LaRoche into an elite fielder and Delwyn Young as a solid second baseman.

 The Winner: Perry Hill

 This was probably the hardest decision of all. A case really could have been made for Kerrigan or Hill. I think I was swayed by Kerrigan staying one more year and Hill likely not. Hill did a good job as the infield instructor and the Pirates raised their intensity defensively.

On First by jmd41280.

 Best nickname:

1. Cutch (Andrew McCutchen)

2. GFJ (Garrett Jones)

3. Ross the Boss (Ross Ohlendorf)

4. Big Bull Rider (Matt Capps)

 The Winner: GFJ

 I mean come on it stands for Garrett Freaking Jones. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

 Best Inning Break Activity:

1. Pirate Quiz- Nice game just pick an answer and either take what you won or go for the box of mystery.

2. Press Your Buc- Played under the rules of the game by a similar name, the contestant presses a button and stops on a prize or a whammy.

3. Bucco- Nice little Plinko game where if you get in the middle you when a 10 game pack or other prizes.

4. Perogie Race- Even though there is a meeting in the Park where it is determined who wins, it is still cool to watch, especially if you are one who bets money on the race.

 The Winner: Pirate Quiz

 I will admit that I am a little biased because I have been on Pirate Quiz, but still I like this game more than the others because at least there are some variables that change. Still, I couldn’t find a picture to capture the victory of Pirate Quiz so I guess I’ll have to satisfy demands by putting this up instead.

P1000226 by boomerkuwanger.

 That wraps up this year’s edition of the Pirates Awards. Agree or disagree, feel free to comment. Until next year, may all gloves be golden and all seasons winning.

My Experience at the 9/21 Houston Astros vs Pittsburgh Pirates game

Nate McLouth

 

 So before I begin with my experience (a rare personal blog entry), I will briefly touch on my last Astros vs Pirates encounter. It was a wet one and I waited through a 2 hour 38 minute rain delay only to have to leave after a minor 15 minute delay. I may be off with my times, but they are reasonable ball parked. So here is my day at PNC Park. Remember, this is all true:

  10:30: I was in the car on a ride to PNC Park. Halfway there, I remembered that it was Fan Appreciation Day, and hope that I would get a prize. I was hopeful but it was a long shot of me getting anything.

  11:00: I arrived at PNC Park but was not exactly in PNC Park. Although this may make no sense at all, let me clarify. I crossed the Clemente Bridge, and went in the Park. I was given a 2009 Pirates Magnetic Schedule (man was that fast) and a Dave Parker Bobble head. While the Riverwalk is Open, nothing else is really open.

  11:15: After a couple walks around the Riverwalk, and my friend buying a baseball to get autographs, we got board and make the 45 second venture into the Hall of Fame Club.

 11:16: We were in the Hall of Fame Club and were thankful it was not warm inside. We also saw Matt Capps in a batting practice jersey out on the field.

 11:24: My friend got all excited that one of the gates open and we left the Hall of Fame Club.

 11:25: We discovered that my friend was wrong and that employees are opening the gates so that they can get through. We also discovered where they stored the promotions and found the place empty.

 11:29: After several more false alarms with the gates, the gates opened and everyone went where their hearts desired.

 11:33: After a few minutes in the bleacher area, we decided to go along the third base side for autographs.

 11:38: We arrived at the third base seats and the wait for the Pirates players began. We took in the view, and noticed a couple of Astros kids playing catch on the field.

 12:00: Astros came out and started stretching and there were no Pirates players on the field. Tim Byrdak, an Astros lefty signed autographs for fans before warming up.

 12:10: Jeff Andrews, the Pirates pitching coach, is seen, and after a while tells us that the players would be out soon, and promised to sign autographs later (he never did and now he is no longer the pitching coach).

 12:20 Pirates pitchers came out with Andrews to warm up. The first two that came out were Craig Hansen and Jason Davis and I couldn’t help but notice how tall they were. More players are seen including Marino Salas, Romulo Sanchez, Zach Duke, Jeff Karstens, Ian Snell, Jimmy Barthmaier, John Grabow, Jesse Chavez and Matt Capps. The running on the field began.

 12:25: At this point Tyler Yates and Denny Bautista were also out. Unless I was sorely mistaken I did not see Paul Maholm (or scheduled pitcher Ross Ohlendorf for that matter) out for warm ups, but I can understand what 200 innings pitched can do to one’s body. At this point, the pitchers start throwing to one another and the sequence continues for a good 10-15 minutes with Andrews watching everybody. Before I move on, I have to mention that Zach Duke and Jeff Karstens were the only two who long tossed.

12:40: The warmups are done, and the autograph signings began. Oh, and this little kid kept kicking my leg with the back of his sandal.

 12:55: By this time, I had five autographs. Ian Snell was the first, and I caught him talking to himself saying that he had to go, but had the heart to stay for another few minutes to sign some more autographs. I got John Grabow next followed by Tyler Yates. As I got Jeff Karstens, I asked him if his tooth was OK, and he acknowledged me and nodded. I also got Sean Burnett, a man that was fabulous during Spring Training. After this, I decided that I had enough autographs for one day, and left to get some food.

 12:56: I decided against my initial reaction and went down to shallow left field and attempted to get Matt Capp’s autograph.

 12:58 After dodging people, and jumping over a place, I was very close to Capps.

 12:59: I call out Matt’s name, and he comes over and signs. I was the last one to get a Capps autograph that morning. Capps is truly what a Pittsburgh Pirates players should be like. He is a very likable guy, and is never afraid to challenge a hitter.

 1:05: I am in line at Benkovitz Seafoods, and am happy to find out that no one is in front of me. This is going to be a good day.

 1:15: I have my gigantic fish sandwich (which was very good) and my large tea in my hands, and prepare to head off to my seats to meet my friend.

 1:22: I am in my seat, raring to go, and just in time to get the starting lineups for my scorecard!

 1:35: All of the pregame stuff is over, and the game starts. From here on in, I will break things down by inning.

 1st inning: My friend shows up after Michael Bourn gets a fluky hit (a barehand opportunity that Ohlendorf couldn’t handle) and announces that he got an autograph from both Andy LaRoche and Steve Pearce. Both teams failed to score a run.

 2nd inning: I stayed for the top of the inning in which the Astros were held scoreless, and then left my seat to walk along the Riverwalk. I then saw what I needed to see and asked if I could be on the Pirates trivia game which comes on at the end of the fourth inning. I am told that I am the alternate and that John Challis’ mailman was supposed to be on. If in the case he did not show up, I would be the contestant to take his place. I also was promised that if I was not on this season, that I will be on next season.

 3rd inning: The waiting game begins as they are giving the mailman time and he has not arrived. In the bottom of the third inning, they decided to give him two minutes. If he did not show up, then I was on. Still the mailman did not show up, I was going to be on Jumbotron!

 4th inning:After I gave them my name and location they gave the information to the people and everything was set. Before I knew it, I saw the Pirate Parrot and the Cannonball Crew. In the bottom of the fourth, I came over and dropped my stuff. I was told to step on a particular space (very Wheel of Fortune bonus round esque) and was told that since the Quiz only occured during the inning break. The Parrot massaged my shoulders (which felt awkwardly comfortable) and I chatted with the ladies of the Cannonball Crew about college and my passion to be a journalist. With that the inning was over and I was on.

 Pirates Quiz: The familiar Jeopardy set up showed on the jumbotron, and I knew I was up. After the host said hello, I nearly fumbled saying I was fine but recovered and asked how he was. Then came the question:

   Where will the Pirates play their first game of the 2009 season?

                           A. Busch Stadium

                           B. PNC Park

                           C. Wrigley Field

                           D. Minute Maid Ballpark

     It took me all of two seconds to answer A and after the host told the audience how confident I seemed, I was indeed right. Since I was right, there was no chance of me winning the Pirates Cap. I had a choice between a $160 Pirates Jacket or the mystery box. I took the mystery box and quickly realized how lopsided the deal was.

    When the box was opened I found out what I had won:

     1. A Nate McLouth autographed 2008 All-Star Jersey (valued at $260)

     2. 2 Lexus Club Seats to the Pirates Home Opener which will be on Monday April 13, 2009 (valued at $160-$210 per ticket).

   So all in all, I was very happy with the deal, and I came out a big winner. At that point, the game (which the Pirates lost 6-2) didn’t matter at all to me. Going back to my section was certainly a lot of fun, as I received some congratulations.

   During the game more than 30 lucky fans were chosen to receive a jersey off of the Pirates back and have it autographed. Neither my friend or I were lucky in that regard. Jack Wilson received two large and separate standing ovations as it is probably his last time in a Pirates home uniform, and a lady from Pittsburgh won a 2008 Chevy Malibu.

  All in all, this game was definitely a game for the ages and was certainly a much better Fan Appreciation Day than in 2007, and it was a game that I will never forget.

 

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