Results tagged ‘ Mark Strittmatter ’

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

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

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

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

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

Ball #3 came from Euclides Rojas by the bullpen.

Pirates lose

8/11

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

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

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

Padres win.

Now my review of Skyblast:

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

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

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

Pirates at Baltimore Orioles 6/14 Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Despite being delayed for a couple of days, I was really looking forward to heading the Baltimore. Erik and Nick’s schedule did not match mine, so I called fellow ballhawk Rick Sporcic who was more than willing to make the trip with me.

I was pleased to have a lot of leg room in Rick’s Camaro which made the 4.5 hour trip a whole lot easier.

We left at 9 AM on Thursday and arrived right on schedule.

We parked inside the Marriott Hotel parking lot and right when we left there, knew that we were in Orioles country.

We walked to the Eutaw Street Gate which is unique because it essentially is a street inside a ballpark. Tons of Orioles souvenir shops, eats, views and memorabilia all on a street and then the both ends serving as entrances.

Also there are a lot of great things to see outside of the Eutaw Street entrance.

With tons of time left, the two of us went sightseeing, and this was the first picture I took and ultimately what would be my first impression of Baltimore. A really weird impression to say the least.

This woman posed with four cops in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. They let her borrow a night stick. Uhh…

Also saw the most interesting name of a restaurant in Baltimore as well.

Stay classy Baltimore

I had my sights set on the Barnes and Noble in the Inner Harbor which I heard was rather large and it was.

The traffic was more than I had expected although there was a Sailabration being held in Baltimore. Apparently the event was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 when Francis Scott Key wrote the National Anthem.

I was able to buy a couple of books.

With Eutaw Street opened early, I bought my ticket and was able to go in way early.

Upon entering I went over to the bullpen area. Unlike the last time Rick was there, the area was locked off and someone was watching it.

This was my first image when I set up by the pen.

I then looked down into the bullpen where Pitching Coach Ray Searage was smoking something that was dark brown. Herbie Andrade and Euclides Rojas both were there as well and said hello to me.

They were there for Brad Lincoln’s bullpen session.

We also saw Jeff Karstens throw 15 pitches from the bullpen.

I knew I needed to try and snag that Boston Red Sox commemorative baseball. I thought my best bet would be to ask Rojas, a former Red Sox coach, so I did. I got the biggest look of confusion on his face afterwards, and obviously he had no idea what I was talking about.

Around 4 PM, we got kicked out and let the waiting game for 5 PM begin.

Rick and I would throw for 30 minutes and I have to say that I was throwing the fastest I had in a long time and the pop’s in Rick’s glove were evidence of that.

Afterwards I saw a man in an orange Orioles shirt and I knew right away who it was when he came up to me.

“Hit me,” I said.

What is this you ask? Well if you see the man in the following photo, he sprays a small squirt of water on your face and you get to choose a baseball card.

Don’t believe me?

Here was the card I picked.

Not too many pictures of BP but here is one of the Pirates pitchers throwing.

Then the camera was turned off. Lincoln tried protecting the pitchers but could not protect two hit balls that were hit into the stands about a minute apart very close to where I was standing for balls 1 and 2 of the day. Even better were that both were Orioles commemoratives meaning all I would need was the Red Sox commemorative to get all six.

I slowly filed over to the Pirates dugout and noticed Manager Clint Hurdle.

“Good luck today Clint,” I said.

“Thank you,” he said looking up and then realized me.

Then upon realizing it was me and recognized me continued.

“Hey, how have you been,” he asked.

“I’ve been great, how about you,” I replied.

“Great thank you. What brings you up here,” he asked.

“Honestly, I went up with a buddy to see a new ballpark, see the team play and to catch more baseballs for The Children’s Institute,” I replied.

“Hey, that’s my charity too,” he answered.

“I know, and I really would like to collaborate if that’s possible,” I said.

“Dang, now I’m going to have to get you the whole cart,” He replied referencing the big cart full of baseballs that would be thrown for bp.

He then went over to the top of the bag and pulled out a brand new baseball (with the practice logo) and tossed it to me for ball #3. I thanked him, wished him luck again and we parted ways.

Orioles BP ended and Rick joined me. He asked Orioles Bullpen Catcher Ronnie Deck for two Red Sox commemoratives and Deck did meet us.

“You’re the two that I owe baseballs to,” he asked.

We confirmed and he proceeded to check the baseballs. Weirdly he then blew us off and left with all of the baseballs. Needless to say we weren’t pleased but now not surprised when I heard that he stiffed Erik and Nick as well.

I would get two more baseballs, both from my buddy Coach Mark Strittmatter. There was a roped off area and he saw me, so I went down. He had a baseball which he gave me for ball #4. It had the normal logo on it. I asked if he knew anything about the Red Sox commemorative and he said they had some Orioles commemoratives but no Red Sox. He threw me ball #5 once BP was over and it was an Orioles ball. We talked as well and shook hands before parting ways.

Rick wanted to watch the whole game and I can’t blame him and he figured we’d leave Camden around 9:30 until I told him that Erik Bedard would get the start.

While Bedard went for the Pirates it would be Tommy Hunter for the Orioles.

After the first inning, I decided to walk around and check out the ballpark. Here are some pictures of what I found.

The Orioles kids club members got this poster.

Home of the Baltimore Ravens. If we had more time we would have gone in here.

$10 buys you a decent amount of chicken tenders and fries. The tenders were pretty good.

Common door opener at Camden.

This particular memorabilia store sold items from this, to…

… to this.

This is a seating area that is first come first serve.

View from the area

Here are some game pictures:

Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones.

Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen

Since Rod Barajas is the starting catcher, Michael McKenry enters the bullpen midway through the game.

Don’t laugh Pirates fans, Dana Eveland still does pitch in the MLB.

Rick and I got very close tickets towards the end of the game to try and get an umpire ball.

Yeah… the Pirates lost big time.

Jose Tabata makes contact in the ninth inning, but it is not enough to get the job done.

The Pirates would ultimately fall short.

Now my review of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The place is nice and spread out. Left field gives you room and a fair chance to stretch your legs and even get a baseball or two if you are a ballhawk.

The ballhawks can be aggressive but are friendly and welcome you to the ballpark.

You can get in early through Eutaw Street and this is a huge plus as it is open from 9-4 before reopening at 5 PM. It lets you get some food, buy that keepsake item and even go by the bullpen and get some interaction.

I am definitely did not like the fact that they have a designated smoking area. I apologize to smokers but I am against smoking inside a public place and that includes ballparks. It cluttered up the surrounding area and many smokers just ignored the designated area and just lit up wherever the pleased.

The fans are passionate about their Orioles but despite wearing a Pirates shirt all day, I was not heckled one time.

I will definitely be going back to Baltimore this year and it should be a great time. I thank Rick so much for taking me, although next time, I don’t think we should come and go in one day as we did leave right after the game and I got home around 3:30 or 4 AM and I was TIRED.

A quick time in to discuss the end of the game. The home plate umpire did not hook either myself or Rick up with baseballs. Frankly I wanted the lineup cards, but was ignored which sucked.

Jim Joyce was the last umpire in and signed two items, one of which was Rick’s baseball.

Before he left I knew I had something I wanted to say to him ever since the whole Armando Galaraga perfect game debacle.

“Jim. I really appreciate the way you handled the aftermath of that perfect game. You handled it with class and I really respect that,” I told him.

“Thank you so much, that really means a lot,” he said and he shook my hand before he left.

Before I finally wrap up this entry, I might as well show you a couple of the things I got.

Free from Orioles Fan Assistance

Somehow managed to get a free Orioles media guide and spiral bound too!

So not the greatest of days and no Red Sox commemorative baseball, but still all in all, a fun time and three Orioles commemorative.

Now the wait is until Tuesday for a six game homestand which ends on Sunday. The Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers are coming to town and things could go well for me although Saturday’s game is a 4:15 start and not 7:05 which will hurt all ballhawks totals as there will be no season ticket holder time. With attendance being higher due to the Pirates winning and interleague, things could get a bit harder in this coming week.

Pirates vs Washington Nationals 5/8- 5/10/12 PNC Park

This really could have been the series that was, but it ended up being the series that was not, although for once it was not my fault. More on that later.

Starting off with May 8, I was very excited, I had started work at The Pittsburgh Fan that day and had my internship with Pittsburgh Sports Report start the day before. I am pleased with both as they are great resume makers and mix my love for sports with journalism, which in the long run will help me reach the goals that I have set for myself in the real world.

I took this excitement which coupled with my back being pretty close to normal to the Clemente Bridge when work ended at 4 PM for me. I was excited to be able to throw with full motion for the first time since almost 10 days before when I threw a side session with my friend Colston on Lind Field in Kennedy Township.

It was raining when we threw but we did not make much of it as radar said that it would pass. I did not even rush to get my coat and kept throwing.

I was excited to get into PNC Park for BP, except I saw the tarp go out on the field right as our throwing session. Are you kidding me? Whether it was the head of the grounds crew Manny Lopez or PNC Park Operations, I did not support this decision and they made a hasty decision.

So we went in to find that there were no Easter Eggs. To make things even worse, the rain was a drizzle by the time.

Unfortunately, this is not Cleveland and thus any chance of BP was over. Honestly if the grounds crew is reading this now, I will keep it nice and say that if you did not place the tarp on the field, you would not have had to water the field at all, it would have been all taken care of. Most of you were quite grumpy this week, be patient and let it ride especially since luck has not been on your side regarding tarping the field for BP.

Of course 5-10 minutes after us season ticket holders got in, the Nationals pitchers threw and the first base ushers pocketed all of the balls so we got nothing out of that. Oh and to the ushers, we are watching, so do not act like you did not pick the baseballs up. I was told by PNC Park Operations that if a baseball is pocketed that it must be given to a child or fan. Out of respect I will leave it that I was told that disciplinary actions would be taken for ushers who do not respect this rule.

Anyways, the Nationals outfielders were joined by Third Base Coach Bo Porter who showed the outfielders how to handle the bounces off of various parts of the PNC Park wall. Porter tried tossing me the ball, but overshot me and it was snagged by another ballhawk. Apparently there is a rule among ballhawks that if a ball is overthrown then the person that the ball was intended for should be able to go and get the ball. I guess not, so come 5:30 I was understandably ticked.

With a shutout definitely a strong possibility and the Nationals off of the field, I figured it was worth a try to talk to a familiar face in former Pirates Coach Trent Jewett who now coaches for the Nationals.

I needed to extend my streak so when Jewett was done talking to Pirates broadcaster Steve Blass, I politely waited for him to sign an autograph and asked if there was a chance to get a baseball.

“I don’t think any around,” he said. “Sorry… oh wait I see one here. Hold on a second.”

A very short while later he popped back up and tossed me ball #1. Relief.

I then decided to head to the bullpen and watch A.J. Burnett and Edwin Jackson warm up.

Before the pitchers warmed up, I received a nice little gift from Herbie Andrade. He came out of his usual tunnel with a baseball which was a surprise. It is a part of his routine to get in the bullpen around 6:30 but he usually does not bring out a baseball. I was caught off guard and was talking to someone and holding a very larged sized water in my non-glove hand.

After he caught up with another former Pirate coach and now Bullpen Coach Jim Lett, he came in with the baseball, said his usual hello and tossed up baseball number two catching me by total surprise.

As for the game, I was able to stay today as a buddy of mine Andy Conte who was a professor I had last semester, helped me get published in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, made me a better writer and so much more was willing to give me a ride back home. I sat with him and was relatively close to the action. I was pleased that the Pirates were able to shut down Bryce Harper and the Nationals offense.

Despite the small crowd, it was definitely a festive atmosphere and when Rod Barajas got his first home run, a walk off giving the Pirates the win I went crazy. Andy was with three buddies from the Tribune-Review and we all were high fiving and jumping up and down like crazy. It was awesome and I don’t ever remember being that excited about a walkoff either.

As a final picture for that game, here are Andy and myself.

I would like to say that the next day was better, alas it was nearly a carbon copy of the previous day. Erik and I threw a few minutes after four and of course it rained for 25 minutes. It was not a strong rain and of course it stopped right before us season ticket holders were to enter the ballpark.

Manny Lopez of course made the decision to tarp the field, so the exact same procedure as yesterday happened. Grounds crew has to remove the tarp right after they put it on, the Nationals threw and 4-5 more baseballs were pocketed by ushers and things were bleak.

Not to sound like Passover, but what made this game different from the previous game? There were signs of life from the Pirates as six players came out to throw.

Joel Hanrahan turned to the fans after his session and saw me and after our connection at Bowling With the Bucs, he gave me a throw. It was an overthrow but I snagged it for ball one without the need to jump. I was pleased as any chance of a shutout was gone early.

That was it, although I stayed for the entire game once again.

No pictures for this game as I was running late, forgot my camera and nearly arrived late to work.

I was able to get ball #2 from Herbie Andrade who helped me out again after Joel Hanrahan warmed up for the ninth inning. Thanks Herbie!

Joel had an emotional night having lost his grandmother. He would be placed on the bereavement list after the game and not return until Sunday. He did get the save and pointed to the heavens soluting his mothers.

I stayed after the game as the grounds crew cleaned up the bullpens. I did that as there was a ball by the bullpen. I saw a “ballhawk” trying to get it, but knowing that his catching ability was suspect, I stood there. This “ballhawk” keeps his baseballs, and there were a couple of guys that were to get the ball, and I wanted to make sure the ball would go to the right person and not used as Ebay bait to fund road trips.

The grounds crew member made a bad throw and it was going to be a scrum between myself and the “ballhawk”. I ended up with it and made sure to give it right over to the guy asking for it. He had two or three friends with them and they all shook my hand, patted me on the back, thanked me and wished me a good night before parting ways.

The last game marked the return of my camera. I did not want to forget it this time, Stephen Strasburg was starting and to boot Kevin Correia guaranteed that he would hit a home run against him (he ended up going 0-2 with two strikeouts).

Also great news was the fact that there was batting practice and there was no rain in sight. All I have to say is, it’s about time because if the grounds crew messed me up again, I would have been so upset.

I did another throwing session and have been working on a sidearmed throw which I think is going well.

Upon entering the ballpark, I saw the left field ushers sitting down and I know immediately what that meant. The balls were pocketed and it has turned into last year all over again.

Despite threats to “badly injure me” and the false idea that my charity initiative was “fake” (more on this in a future post), I came away with a nice haul.

Ball 1: It took a while to get on the board but my buddy Jason Grilli hooked me up and got my day started off in the right direction.

Ball 2: I was spotted by Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas and he threw me a perfect ball.

Ball 3: Jose Tabata was fielding baseballs in the outfield for a drill and a ball was hit right by the left field foul pole. My Spanish was quick enough to get the baseball.

I will take a break in the action to say that from here my buddy Mark Strittmatter came into left field. I could not have been any more excited. I pumped my fist and went over by where he was.

Immediately Strittmatter and I made eye contact, waved and smiled at each other and I knew he would help me out once again.

Surprisingly, quite a few baseballs went his way and he gave me every other toss up or at least one of every three. This allowed me to get balls 4, 5 and 6. Yes some of you may view this as cheap, and I understand, but when you are raising money for charity, this goes a long way and of course they all count.

That was it for the Pirates portion of BP and the Nationals prepared to hit.

I saw that the Nationals were in Los Angeles last week, and my buddy Nick got a Dodgers 50th anniversary commemorative baseball from the Nationals on Tuesday, so my goal was to hopefully snag one of those.

I had rotten luck in left field as former Pirates Xavier Nady would not throw anything into the crowd.

I looked in centerfield for baseballs at 5:30 but they were pocketed by either the ushers, or a fan who happens to get in early at each game and gets to sit in her seat.

Of course, I had Henry Rodriguez all lined up to throw me a ball, but he had other ideas and I just missed a BP home run.

The chances for double digits were running thin, so I had to act fast.

After a narrow miss of a high bouncer and a playful groan from Nady, reliever Ryan Perry fielded the ball and did a no look and over the shoulder toss to me. I had to catch it barehanded which I did for ball 7. I took one look and sighed, still no commemorative. I just ended up giving it to an usher to give to a kid.

I then decided to move to left field where Roger Bernadina was. I was unable to get him to toss me one, but I wanted to try for a few minutes more before I moved to the dugout to try and get one.

A right handed batter gave me ball #8, as he hit a ball that went in the small area at left field. I thought I saw something bizarre about the ball and no one else seemed to be going after it. I charged at it right away despite it being locked. I stepped over it, picked it up, and found this:

Mission accomplished!

It was the commemorative I had wanted! I said in a whisper to no one in particular, “that was a commemorative.” I am so glad I didn’t pinch my nerve on this one like I did for the Angels baseball last year.

A couple of minutes later, Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus gave me a nice toss for ball #9. No commemorative there, so I gave it to another usher to give to a kid.

I then went over to the Nationals dugout where I kept my glove up and got rewarded as some random coach threw me ball #10 placing me in double digits once more. Even better, it was another commemorative.

With BP over, I went over to the bullpen and watched the game.

The Pirates were looking good but Correia had a rough inning giving up three runs and ultimately that was enough for the Nationals to get the win.

Meanwhile I got robbed twice during the game. Both Nationals home runs went into the bullpen area. For the first, Daniel McCutchen did an over the shoulder toss that was intended for me, but out of nowhere, a fan snagged it and passed a point they were not supposed to. Then he stayed and wouldn’t shut up. So much for the ball being intended for me, fans never will stop being obnoxious.

Former Pirate Sean Burnett heard my call for the second ball, but his throw was terribly off and landed in an area that fans were not allowed to go into. Wow I was not pleased.

Meanwhile, Strasburg struck out 13 Pirates and looked dominant.

Again the Pirates lost and missed out on a chance to sweep. At least I snagged a free hot dog Tuesday that I got to redeem for a fresh one on Thursday.

Also, former Steeler Hines Ward threw out the first pitch to the game.

Thursday was not a bad day by any means, but the no BP really hurt me on Tuesday and Wednesday. I would face more disappointment during the weekend series against the Astros, but more on that another time.

Bowling With the Bucs 2012

I will start this entry off by saying that I missed this event so much last year after participating in 2009 and 2010. Despite the high cost, Bowling With the Bucs benefits various charities and is worth every penny. Why don’t I let this pictures do the talking, and then I will come back with comments.

Myself with Pirates bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade. He has been so great to me and I specifically wanted my picture with him first. He was in the lane next to mine for the second straight time which made me extremely happy.

Pirates starter Kevin Correia was in the other lane next to me. He was cracking jokes all night. He guaranteed a home run in his next start which was this past Thursday vs Stephen Strasburg. He ended up going 0-2 with two strikeouts. Oh well.

I wanted this picture so badly in 2008, so I was really excited when four years later, I could get this pic with fellow lefty Nate McLouth.

Here I am with Chris Resop, one of the two Pirates that chaired this event. Glad to see that smile on his face.

The next image was the one you saw in my last entry with Mark Strittmatter. Here I am with Andrew McCutchen. Yes, I am close to blinking but I had to get my picture with him since I did not get one yet.

Well I choked those last frame and lost game one by seven pins.

Who does not love J Hay? This guy is the underdog and a fan favorite. I love how he seemed so excited to be at the event. When he hit the walkoff on Mother’s Day, I was so happy for him.

Garrett was in my lane, which really pleased me.

With this picture of former Pirate John Wehner, I now have a picture with all of the current Pirate broadcasters.

I am with reliever Juan Cruz who was a great non-roster invitee and has only been scored upon once this season.

Posing with infielder Casey McGehee.

Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas has been nice to me since he kept seeing me early last season. Lately in addition to our hellos, he said that he was glad to see me. I told him as well as Herbie about my charity initiative and they have been even more helpful. I don’t know what I would do without them.

Posing with Pirates reliever Jared Hughes.

Here with reliever and buddy Jason Grilli. We had a nice convo during the offseason and he interacts a lot with the fans on Twitter. Definitely someone to get to know. Infectious personality.

Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, the other of the two chairs of the department along with Chris and Joel’s wives Kara and Kim. Joel surprised me when he knew my name and then said that, “I was everywhere”. That was pretty awesome if you ask me.

Yes my strained back was still 75-80% but still not please with my second game. I still won the lane though and beat Garrett Jones which is still cool.

All in all Bowling With the Bucs 2012 was great. It was worth every penny which is hard to do since I paid $137.50. I would recommend this event but not if you just want to bowl. I only bowled two games, so if you are going to meet/interact with players and fans and are willing to help out charity, then this event is for you. This event offers more access to the players than a PirateFest does. This also offers you access to almost all of the team, something you may get with only a couple or so players as a season ticket holder.

The Pirates off the top of my head that were not present were hitting coach Gregg Ritchie, pitchers A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, catchers Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry and outfielders Yamaico Navarro and Jose Tabata.

Root Sports here in Pittsburgh will have a special for Bowling With the Bucs this coming Thursday at 6 PM Eastern Time. I know I said a couple of small things on there and filmed a less than stellar shot of mine so there is a chance I will make it on.

Finally, a couple of buddies and fellow season ticket holders sit in section 134 of PNC Park and write a blog. They interviewed me in a blog post entitled ‘Bowling with the Bucs’ a Success for Weiss, Fans.

Here is the link to a post, which includes more info on Kevin Correia’s home run guarantee, my charity iniative and how to follow me on various social media networks:

http://section134blog.com/2012/05/09/bowling-with-the-bucs-a-success-for-weiss-fans/

May 5/6 Pirates vs Cincinnati Reds PNC Park

I missed the May 4 game vs the Reds because I was teaching tennis and also because of my strained back. I knew I would need to rest and make a tough decision the next day.

I woke up feeling about 75-80% in my back and knew it was going to be a very tough decision. I mulled it over for a couple or so hours and then took a run up and down my small street. I experienced no problems and thought that despite the risks, that I would go to the game May 5.

I waited much longer than normal to board the bus in order to give my back some much needed rest.

I figured I decided to give myself a different luck and thus wore high socks today. I meant business and I knew that I was going to have to go easy instead of further aggrevate my back. Any further damage could shut me down for an extended time.

I arrived about 15 minutes before the gate opened and asked Erik Jabs for a few throws to make sure my glove was ready. I knew I could not throw in any of my normal motions, and thus threw kind of like a stiff catcher. I just did not have any true way to throw. My glovework though was pretty good, which made me happy.

When the Clemente Gate opened, I ran and didn’t find any Easter Eggs, so I then had to go over to the first base line and stay there and just stand so that my back would be safe. If I ballhawked in the outfield and turned too sharply it could have seriously hurt my back.

There were no Easter Eggs over there either.

About five minutes later, a ball came over and out of sight. An usher disappeared and pocketed it. I did not want him to throw me it as I knew that Tony Watson would see it and despite my hesitation, I just sighed and held the glove up. It counts as ball #1 though, because it is a PNC Park employee that threw me the ball.

Things quieted down though, as Watson would immediately throw any other grounder back to the bat boy.

Then I saw my buddy reliever Chris Leroux who was talking to Watson. I really wanted to talk to him and was going to talk to him until I saw him walking over surprisingly to me.

“Hey Zac how are you,” he asked.

“Doing well Chris, how are you,” I replied.

From there we talked for about 10 minutes and just caught up. Chris has been on the DL and is currently rehabbing in Bradenton, Florida. He asked me how school was going and if I was done and I got an update on his progress and an update on his car situation which was fun. I also got to tell him about my charity operation and he said he would do what he could to help out.

At this point, a mother and daughter were over as well which was fine. The mother took a couple of pictures of myself and Chris and then Chris went back to his spot.

Thanks for all of the help and support Chris!

Soon after the baseballs just started rolling in, I mean literally rolling in. Leroux was not well enough to throw many of the balls, so he would roll them.

Within a 10 minute period, I got baseballs two, three, four, and five on the day via the roll from Chris. Don’t worry the mother and daughter got some baseballs as well.

I would have had ball number six, but the roll stopped short. I sighed figuring that meant that I had missed out on that ball. At that point Coach Mark Strittmatter was in right field with Chris as Watson has shifted more towards centerfield.

Apparently Chris told “Stritty” about my charitable operations.

Mark came over to get the ball and I was worried, because he always will throw the baseballs back over, however he told me something I didn’t expect.

I started off the conversation by saying, “Stritty, I miss seeing you in the bullpen. Why aren’t you over there any more?”

“I know, they don’t have me over there anymore. I was over there to help out [Mike] McKenry and now they don’t have me back there anymore,” he said.

He then continued, “Now, Chris told me about what you do for charity, so I will ask you a question and if you get it right, then you get the ball. Sounds fair right?”

I agreed and then waited for the question.

“How many outs are there in an inning,” he asked.

“Six,” I replied.

Baseball number six.

A couple of minutes later, he fielded a baseball and came back over.

“How many months have 28 days,” he asked.

“All of them,” I quickly replied again.

“****,” he replied before realizing the child was still there and saying shoot instead and apologizing.

Ball number seven.

Five minutes later he fielded another one.

“America celebrates the Fourth of July, and it is a big holiday and always a lot of fun. Does the Dominican Republic have a fourth of July,” he asked.

“Yes,” I said in a questioning voice.

Ball number eight.

“Geez, you’re good,” he said before the Reds took their spots. That was the end of that fun.

Thanks for everything Mark!

The Reds were throwing and I had left my bag with someone to avoid heavy lifting, as per doctor’s orders.

About five minutes later an overthrow came and reached the seats. I gloved the ball for ball number nine. I knew that I was so close to getting double digits as well, and to think I almost skipped this game.

“Could we please have the ball back? I’ll throw it back to you when we are done,” Reds outfielder Chris Heisey said.

Having had this before, I threw it back right away, but was not pleased with the throw and apologized. He said it was good.

After a few more throws, Heisey thanked me and threw the ball back. Since it was the same ball, it will only count once so I was still at nine balls, although I credited Heisey with the toss because I forgot who his throwing partner was, and I recognized him.

After that, I ran over to watch reliever Sam LeCure finish throwing. He was going to to toss it back in but then pocketed it. I asked him for the ball and he replied sure. I somehow contained my emotions as ball number 10 came my way. I was so excited to finally get my double digits that should have happened a while ago.

Nick Pelescak’s brother Bryan told me last home stand, “you will get double digits sooner than later”. Little did I know it would be this game where I was battling an injury.

I was not done though, as I lowered my socks and kept going.

Ball number 11 came from Aroldis Chapman. It was meant for a girl, but it bounced and she would not have caught it so I played the bounce right, caught it, and gave it to her. I just wanted to make sure that she got the ball and both her and her father were very happy.

Ball 12 also came from Chapman. I asked him in Spanish and he tossed it up right away. Everyone around me was so surprised and how fast I said it, how fast the ball was tossed to me and how I apparently sounded Spanish. Everyone around me tried repeating what I said for the next five minutes, which was amusing. I tried to help them out but it was to no avail.

Close to the end of BP, I tried my luck at the dugout in hopes of a baseball from Reds first base coach Billy Hatcher who always throws baseballs up after BP. Unfortunately, he was not in charge of the bag and only had a few, so I missed out.

After BP, I had to leave to cover the Pittsburgh Power game, so I was very pleased with 10 especially given the circumstances surrounding my back and called it a day at PNC Park.

10 of the 12 baseballs. The other two were given away.

The next day I was back at PNC Park and my back was about five percent better.

I was hoping for some Pirates BP, but early that morning, I got a text from a Pirates worker that the Pirates would be doing BP in the indoor cages and with gates opening at 11:30 would not have to show up until 10:30.

I crossed the Clemente Bridge and saw no cage up and immediately that here we go again feeling went through my head.

I will be honest when I say that I went in, saw the cages up and screamed and whooped it up like a school girl. It was hilarious.

The Reds would be hitting, although we would be stuck along the riverwalk until noon.

When noon did come, I went to the third base side and found three baseballs in the lower section closest to left field. Balls number 1, 2 and 3.

The Reds did not help me out at all during BP although I was close to a scrum in the second deck of left field. Oh well, at least I got ball #4 from a Reds ball boy.

The Pirates won the game Saturday but Sunday’s game dragged on and took seemingly forever and the Pirates lost it to boot.

As a final image, here is what happened when Joey Votto signed my shirt. I unfortunately did not have any baseballs at the time he signed :(

Oh wait I lied, one more and this is the last image, I promise. Aroldis Chapman was throwing absolute gas Sunday.

Yes that is 99 miles per hour. He hit that twice in this game.

Pittsburgh Pirates Uniform Changes

Each year some Pirates change their uniform numbers and the new Pirates also got new numbers as well. Here are the changes:

. The major change is that Pedro Alvarez has changed his #17 for #24. Speculation is that it was his number in the minors and since Delwyn Young wore the number this past season for the Pirates, Alvarez had to choose another.

. Neil Walker will keep his #18. Walker wore #19 throughout the Minor Leagues but Ryan Church wore the #19 last season and thus Walker had to choose a different number. Walker chose #18 without thinking too much about it, but Walker who is a huge Andy Van Slyke fan never knew that Van Slyke also wore the #18 and that is a reason why he is keeping it.

. Manager Clint Hurdle will wear the #13 and thus Ronny Cedeno has chosen to wear the #5.

. Lyle Overbay will wear #37, meaning Charlie Morton has switched his number to #39.

. Alex Presley will now don the #44 jersey, which previously belonged to Brandon Moss.

. New Pirate Matt Diaz will wear #23.

. No Pirate will fill the “ocho-cinco” number as no one will wear the #85 vacated by Lastings Milledge.

Coaches Numbers:

 We already said that Clint Hurdle will wear #13, but here are the other numbers:

Hitting Coach Gregg Ritchie #58, Pitching Coach Ray Searage #54, 1B Coach Luis Silverio #39, 3B Coach Nick Leyva #16, Bench Coach Jeff Banister #55, Bullpen Coach Euclides Rojas #50, Bullpen Catcher Heberto “Herbie” Andrade will keep his #86 and Coach Mark Strittmatter #59.

 Interesting that Morton’s number is 39 and so is Silverio’s. Something has got to give.

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