Results tagged ‘ Nick Pelescak ’
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.
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.
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.
Saturdays were always good to me last year, as evidenced by my average of five baseballs a game on Saturdays. It was Passover, but with my numbers, I could not turn down attending this game. I decided to leave after the top half of the first inning, to appease my parents.
I arrived at the gate around 3:25 and was ready for what I hoped to be a good day. Erik and Nick had already been to Cleveland that day for BP and all three of us went over to the grassy area to throw around.
It was a great session, and I felt ready to go into the gates and have another great day. The mixture of pop ups, straight throwing, grounders and pitching boot camp that is the Saturday throwing session is a great way to see where you are at on the day.
When the gates did open, I searched for Easter Eggs in left field and came up empty. I decided quickly to go to the first base side and I was pleased that the speed I had last season was still there as I was a little concerned that the lifting I have done in weeks would harm my speed.
When I went to first base, I was surprised to see a white speck. Upon close inspection, it was a baseball and I picked it up for ball #1 on the day.
I then saw a Phillies player on the field, and was surprised to see that it was Juan Pierre. I have long looked up to Juan and he is one of my favorite MLB players because he resembles me perfectly. He is an underdog, a leader, a fast runner and a singles hitter.
He essentially was just standing there, and I saw that he had a baseball, so I knew that two of my wishes could have come true.
Erik later asked who I was talking for as long as I was and he seemed surprised when I told him.
In short, Juan and I talked for 10 minutes and he was outside because he was getting ready for warm ups. He wanted to be outside since he is stuck in the clubhouse for such a long period of time. I had him sign a baseball, one I will keep and not sell for charity.
During this conversation, Tony Watson fielded a baseball and nodded to me, his way of asking me if I wanted it. I nodded and ball #2 was in my glove. Thanks Tony!
I did get to tell Juan about my charity and when I told him that every baseball counted, he tossed me the ball in his hand for ball #3, but he did ask for it back when he went to stretch which was fine.
Juan was a great guy, and we posed for a picture before he left. It already is one of my favorite pictures, and I think even more highly of him than I did before.
There was a lot of downtime after that, as the Phillies relievers stretched and of course with no overthrows, and no toss ups, I was standing still until I saw future Hall of Famer Jim Thome signing autographs. Thome has hit over 600 home runs putting him in the top 10 all time in homers hit and he is still playing in his early 40′s. I had Thome sign a First Pitch Program.
Another highlight of my day involves Philadelphia Phillies reliever Mike Stutes. He asked me to watch his glove, which I did while he warmed up on the field before BP. I still did get my picture taken with the glove in its place.
I even got to hand it to him which was pretty cool. He thanked me and I told him I did not want to get Tulowitzki’d. That recent prank could have happened to me if I wasn’t careful. Here is that video:
Phillies BP then began, and there was a loose ball close to where I was standing. I did not have a glove trick and thus could not reach it. Who would come to the rescue? It was Phillies Strength and Conditioning Coach Dong Lien. Yes that name is right, and his name is not on the Phillies Coaching Roster. He was decent with tossing three balls to fans towards the end of BP, so I knew it was worth a try. Lien, threw the first two balls, both further away in and then came closer to me as the ball was close by.
“Could I please have that ball, it’s for charity,” I said.
“What charity,” Lien asked.
“The Children’s Institute,” I replied.
Right after I said children, I saw him toss me ball #4. I would thank him by name, but I think that WordPress wouldn’t be too happy about that, so I will thank him again in this way.
A couple of minutes later, a ball was hit just enough to get in the grassy area and close by where I was standing. I waited there and plotted my move. Soon enough, Thome was jogging back in to take his cuts. I was able to get his attention and his toss was like he was fielding a grounder and I was the pitcher running over. He underhanded it a little short, so I reached over and made the clean catch. It drew a nod from him, I thanked him and he was off. It was surreal to have him toss me a ball, especially since I was in my Pirates gear the entire time.
I then saw Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon signing autographs and I went over with the second Pirates First Pitch Program I had and had him sign it.
I decided to stay by the dugout towards the end of BP and came up empty handed and thus ending BP with five. I was fine with that on this day.
I then paid my weekly $5 for the Pirates Charities raffle and then headed to the bullpen to get a good place to watch the action. I got exactly the spot I wanted as I wanted to talk to Herbie Andrade and Euclides Rojas for the first time this season.
When they did show up, they both remembered me and they both lit up with smiles. They both said that they had great off-seasons and asked how mine was, which was nice.
With the re-introductions out of the way, I was excited to see both Cliff Lee and Jeff Karstens warmed up.
Karstens had a hiccup in the first inning allowing a run, but the Pirates were able to get it back for him to tie the game at one. The Pirates offense again was dormant, but they were able to have a successful ninth inning which started with a Rod Barajas tape measure double.
On the Root Sports Postgame show, former Pirate Kent Tekulve showed how close Barajas was to a homer, and the picture was rather funny actually.
The game ended on an Alex Presley infield single which brought the crowd to its feet and gave the Pirates their first win on the season. The atmosphere was electric and it was the second consecutive sellout.
The third and final game of the series and homestand was the next day and it was Kids Day. I decided to take the risk and attend this game. Little did I know how much of a risk this would be and that my streak of games with a baseball was in serious jeopardy. How would I respond? You will have to read the next entry to find out.
For me at least, Opening Day is a national holiday. Pirate fans come together once a year to celebrate this team and the start of the baseball season, and every baseball hangover is instantly cured.
I was at the gates around 10:00 for what was going to be an exciting day. The first thing I did was take a nice run from the Clemente Gate to home plate, which was a decent run. There, I ran into Randi Hoffman, who along with Joe Klimchak does interviews for the Pirates to place on their website and apparently Xfinity On Demand.
The interview itself was about Opening Day, and what it meant to me. I recalled my experience from two or three years ago when I was in the Lexus Club and saw Zach Duke put his fist in the air after beating the Astros. That was the year of the whole Stanton Heights police shootings, so it was a very emotional day.
With that I jogged back to the Clemente Gate.
Throughout the time before the gates opened, I saw Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington greeting the fans as they were coming to the ballpark.
I was told that the gates were going to open at 11:30, so myself, Nick Pelescak and Erik Jabs all threw on the Clemente Bridge. This was my first test on the season, and by all reports I passed. My glove work was great and I did not have any of my wild throws. Erik cut the session short when he saw the ticket takers getting ready.
I was surprised because it was 10:49. Would we get in early? Well according to one of the ticket takers, we were getting in at 11. This made me very excited because the chance to see some of Pirates BP was exciting, and the chance of me getting a baseball is that much better.
There was one problem, and that was that the bag checkers and security were not at the gate.
Well 11:00 came and went and so did 11:10 and no sign of the security guards. All of a sudden, someone appeared around 11:15 and all of the Pirates employees huddled up (seriously, this isn’t football).
The ticket taker immediately changed his story then, and at 11:30 the gate was to be opened.
Even worse news was that it wasn’t just the Clemente Gate that would open at 11:30, it was all gates. Things just got a lot harder.
Of course, this was the case and for non-7:05 games, there will not be any season ticket holder time. Things are already tough enough with the grounds crew ruining time of BP to prepare a field that is already ready, and tarping the field even for a small rain shower.
Here is the official word from the Pirates website:
The 2012 PNC Park gate times are as follows:
“For Monday through Friday night games, Season Ticket Holders may enter the ballpark and proceed to the Left Field Bleachers 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to game time.
On Saturday night games, Season Ticket Holders are permitted to enter into the Left Field Bleachers and main concourse 2 hours and 30 minutes prior to game time.
Early access is granted by entering through the Clemente (CF) Riverwalk Gate, and proceeding to the bullpen gates where season ticket holders can then show their Season Ticket Holder card or have their season ticket scanned.
Season Ticket Holder early entry is not available on day games (12:35pm, 1:35pm and 4:05pm).”
Oh well, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.
The Clemente Gate line was split into a Y with the line going two ways (??). I did search for Easter Eggs, but found nothing, and I knew that things were going to go bad from there.
Upon coming into the ballpark, I saw red, which meant that the Pirates were done with BP already. There of course were no Easter Eggs in left field, because Manny Sanguillen’s grandson snuck into left field and pocketed the five baseballs that were in there. Yes that is a fact as myself and several others saw him leave “Manny’s BBQ” and go into the seats, which is not allowed.
It felt wrong to wear Phillies gear, but really what choice did I have? Things were tough, and I could not get near a batted ball.
Joe Savery was in left field and he was not tossing anything up, which stunk.
I decided to relocate to center field and first base during BP and center yielded nothing for me, so I went back over to first base. Luckily Kyle Kendrick was there, and he tossed me a baseball. I guess I can say, Kyle you got Punk’d again.
Ball number one on the day and six on the season, crisis and shutout averted.
Despite me going to the dugout after BP, I was unable to snag anything else until I went over to the bullpen.
In the top of the first, my buddy bullpen catcher Herbie Andrade threw a baseball that a kid misplayed and I saved for ball #2 on the day. I immediately gave it to the kid, whose mother made him come over and thank me.
I then left to sit in my season ticket section (312). My dad was in his seat so, Colston and I stayed until the bottom of the seventh inning was over so that we could beat the traffic.
The game itself was a great pitching battle between Roy Halladay and Erik Bedard.
Both pitchers looked great warming up and seemed in their element, something that would carry into the game.
It was surreal to see the first pitch, because that is when it hits you that the 2012 season is underway.
The difference in the game was a Carlos Ruiz sacrifice fly. Right fielder Jose Tabata’s throw to catcher Rod Barajas was too high and Ty Wigginton scored the winning run in a 1-0 game.
Yes the Pirates ran into a great pitcher who has won 39 games over the past two seasons, however the Pirates offense still looked unprepared and mediocre at best. This will have to change if this team wants to become winners this season.
The Pirates had Friday off, so my next game was Saturday? Would I continue my strong start on the day where I averaged five baseballs a game last season, or would I choke? I guess you’ll have to find out soon. Thanks as always for reading.
As an added bonus, here are some extra pictures from the game:
Today marked the unofficial start of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball season as the Pirates decided to make their workout, the day before the home opener, open to the public. This was a great idea to raise the excitement levels for the fans and even make some money off of the concessions.
The only thing that ruined this good time was the Phillies who decided that they did not want the fans to see them hit. Erik Jabs decided to count his snags and although I was initially apprehensive, I opted to count mine as well.
I went to this event with my friends Andrew and Colston. We lined up by the Highmark Legacy Square entrance around 1:45 as that was the only gate that would be open for fans to get in come 2:30.
The three of us ran into some familiar faces which was great. We then all played a game of catch and I threw nice and easy. I was encouraged for the most part with the session and then got back to my position as first in line.
A short while later, my backpack was checked and we got to go in at 2:20, 10 minutes early. A couple of beer bellied fans raced ahead of me. I knew to save my energy as they raced off for the first base line. I ws carefree and knew I would be first into left field. I knew that Erik and Nick Pelescak would not be at the ballpark yet and I was on the clock. I would have to take advantage.
I was surprised to see some of the Pirates taking early cuts. From where I was standing Manager Clint Hurdle and 1st Base Coach Luis Silverio were in the outfield. A Pirate hit a hopper that traveled close to the wall and Hurdle had a glove and was getting it.
“Clint, may I please have that ball,” I said.
“It’s early BP, we don’t throw any of the balls up,” Clint said in his usual booming voice.
“O.K. I understand. Thanks for responding,” I replied.
“You know what? What the heck,” Hurdle said before tossing me ball #1 on the season. This was the first baseball a fan received at PNC Park this season. That was an awesome feeling. Thanks so much Clint!
With that done, I knew the relievers would be coming out very soon. I had already searched, and there were no easter eggs and when nothing was being hit out to me during early BP, I retreated to the third base side so that I would get a good chance for a toss up from a reliever. On my way up I ran into in-game host for the Pirates Joe Klimchak and we did a great handshake and man hug before I continued running.
Slowly the relievers all trickled out as well as Erik Bedard and Jeff Karstens. At this point, I had said another hello and then my buddy reliever Evan Meek came over and made a point to say hello and ask how I was doing. He is looking much thinner and may be in the best shape of his playing career. I am amazed at how healthy he looks.
The relievers then got ready to throw. Jason Grilli stopped once through his delivery to talk to me. As you may remember, he called me this off-season to discuss his business venture. He remembered my name and we talked for a little while he threw. We even were joking around with each other, and when I called him “J Grills”, we both laughed. Meek and Grilli threw together and when they were done, I asked Jason for the ball, which he tossed for ball #2. My goal for the day was three so I was one step closer to accomplishing that.
After the relievers were done throwing, they took part in a few drills and got their running in.
While they did this, I went up to Pops Plaza where I got a free Pirates shirt. It was a decent shirt, better than a lot of their t-shirt Friday shirts and frankly was just nice and simple. It was smart too because the shirt allowed them to promote the Pirates twitter account.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the screen came out, and BP started for the Pirates.
There was no competition at first base, so I went over there as it worked wonders for me last year. At this point, Erik and Nick were in left field, I decided to stay on the first baseline as there were maybe a handful of people.
I was rewarded fairly quickly, as Rod Barajas was in the first group of Pirates taking cuts. Barajas hit a cutting liner that I was able to field and catch for ball #3. Considering I have made it a goal to catch more batted balls this season, this was a huge confidence booster and a step in the right direction for sure.
Ball #4 came shortly after as Jose Tabata hit a bouncer which ended up in the seats and I scooped it up. Short, sweet and to the point.
Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez were over there when I made those plays and sure enough I figured I would have a chance to get another ball from over there so I stayed. Relievers Tony Watson and new Pirate Juan Cruz came over and I focused immediately on Juan.
It took a while since Watson was getting the balls, but when Cruz got a ball and was in earshot, I asked in Spanish. He looked at me and paused before throwing the baseball back in. Perhaps it was because Pitching Coach Ray Searage was close by, but I had succeeded and I knew he had heard me. I knew that if I continued to get in his head, he would have no choice but to throw it to me.
Sure enough a ball comes close to me and Cruz had not gotten back into position so I knew this was my chance. I asked again in Spanish and a random lady asked right after in English.
“He asked first,” Cruz said before throwing ball #5 my way. This was awesome and I knew that I had well exceeded my goal of three baseballs at that point. Muchas gracias Juan.
I then waited for the next set of hitters, and knowing that I would not get anymore toss ups, I was hoping for a baseball to get hit my way, but that would not happen. I moved to left field and essentially nothing happened so no luck for me.
I ended up with 5 baseballs on the BP which was good enough for tops on the day. It is a great feeling to know that I did a good job today. I have worked really hard towards the last few weeks of this off-season to get into shape and my stamina is up and my strength is up a little more. My confidence is also up by a lot as well. I only wish that I could have seen Phillies BP, I likely could have received a few more baseballs.
Still, five baseballs is a great way to start the season, and with clear skies tomorrow and the Pirates taking BP tomorrow I can only hope for some easter eggs and maybe a ball or two. Should be a fun day.
Due to the rain, there were not nearly as many opportunities to snag baseballs. There was no batting practice every single game I went besides Saturday. I am not counting Wednesday towards my ballhawking stats as I was a media member and covering both dugouts (and there was rain galore again) I had no opportunites to snag a thing.
Balls snagged: 25
Career Balls Snagged: 94
Top Catches of the homestand:
1. Saturday April 23 Pirates vs Nationals: Matt Diaz hit a ball that initially looked as though it was going to fall short of where I had set up shop, but it sailed longer. I was prepared to play it off of a bounce, and it did bounce, right off of my leg. I had no time to lick my wound and I dove on the concrete on top of the ball making the snag. It also was ball number 22 of the season.. BHL founder Erik Jabs said that I needed to snag 21 this month to keep pace, and it allowed me to pass this benchmark. Also it took me until July 20, 2010 last season to get to this point, so I am well ahead of my pace.
2. Tuesday April 26 Pirates vs Giants: I had just missed an Andrew McCutchen toss up in the third as he under threw me. My back had been out and my leg still banged up from the Diaz hit and other injuries. I also had slightly tweaked my ankle. In the fifth inning, Cutch tossed up the ball and I knew this likely was my last chance. Ian Weir had snagged the third inning ball after my misplay, and if I missed it, he was likely to get it. Right behind me was a supervisor so I had to defend him as well. It was the exact same catch as the one on April 14 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
1. Tim Lincecum- I don’t really chase autographs anymore, but with no BP on the field and nothing going on, I tried to get Giants ace Tim Lincecum. It was hard because he started in the middle of the autograph seekers and I was closer to the end of the line trying to gauge where he was. He then was skipping every two or three people, so I went where I thought he would sign, and I ended up correct. He signed the baseball thrown to me by Madison Bumgarner only minutes before. It was a great moment and a great add to a collection which includes Adam Wainwright, Billy Wagner, Ubaldo Jimenez, Andrew McCutchen and more which I cannot think of right now. Lincecum has a scribbly autograph much like Jimenez, so you really can’t tell that it was him who signed it.
I plan on being an active member of this homestand. Being at 94 snags, I more than expect to surpass the 100 career snags on this homestand, which has visits from the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros are not great when it comes to BP or toss ups, but you never know. The Dodgers have a new manager but with Matt Kemp, Andre Eihier and others it should be a fun BP. Here are the games I plan on going to at this moment:
1. Saturday May 7 vs Astros
2. Tuesday May 10 vs Dodgers
3. Wednesday May 11 vs Dodgers
4. Thursday May 12 vs Dodgers
PLEASE HOLD UP WEATHER!!! WE HAVE ALREADY HAD ENOUGH RAIN!!
Lastly fellow Pittsburgh ballhawk and BHL member Nick Pelescak asked me if I wanted to go to Washington to see the Nationals play the Giants, but I decided against it as I have finals this week. It actually didn’t seem that expensive to go so very well may take a road trip this year. He also offered to take me to Texas this summer, but with a summer job and limits I declined that invite. Perhaps Washington and Cleveland are possibilities this season.
Before I begin, let me explain. This entry is written in a Times New Roman font, and that is because I typed it on my computer before I placed it on here. I had a tight timeline when I first typed this and I figured this would work just as well.
This day started with a lot of promise. I had read a post from Twitter from @BucsInsider and saw that the first 15 people to meet at the Pirates Clubhouse Store would get a pair of tickets to the Pittsburgh Baseball Club for the game. Naturally, I never had a chance to experience this, so I decided to go and sure enough I landed a free pair of tickets to the game. To be honest, with rain in the forecast I would not have taken it otherwise.
Here is a photo of me posing with the two tickets that I was given.
When I was in one of my later classes, I saw the rain and groaned as I knew that batting practice was cancelled immediately. I then got a text stating that the tarp would go on the field at four, an hour earlier and it confirmed my worst fears that there would be no batting practice.
I went to this game with my friend Andrew, and ultimately got the first spot in line. I was just ahead of Ian Weir and Erik and Nick opted not to go because the tarp covered the field.
Here’s proof of the line behind me. I know not much of a line, but that was the line just moments before going into the ballpark.
And then this is Ian and myself.
When the gates opened, I charged in ahead of the pack. The gates actually took longer to open, because they were trying to work the scanner. I immediately searched thick and thin for Easter eggs and overran one which Ian got. I have mixed feelings about it as of course I wanted to add to my total, but the ball was soaked and was bigger. It essentially was a play that was similar to how I performed on Saturday.
Evan Meek then came out to throw with a fellow Pirate. I was too far away to see who it was, but he waved to me. He ended up tossing the ball to someone else, and it was almost time for the other gates to open, so I was getting ready to change into my Giants gear. All of a sudden, Meek was walking towards the bullpen. I was well aware that there was a ball in the visitor’s side of the bullpen, and I pointed it out to Meek (something along the line of “Hey Ev I think there is a ball in the bullpen” “Really, where? Oh I see it. Here you go”). He appreciated it, and ended up lobbing it up to me and with no competition I snagged my first ball of the day.
I then went into the outfield and was about to start searching but I had a feeling that Ian had already searched the area between my time of getting the ball from Meek, and thus I went to the first baseline, where various Giants pitchers were warming up.
The tarp was still on the field, however there was no rain, nor any impending threat of rain. Various pitchers were warming up, and I ended up getting lucky. Ian was right next to me and had his Giants gear, but I had a leg up on him, as I had gone on ESPN’s website earlier in the morning, and printed up the roster and some pitchers. I was able to correctly identify Madison Bumgarner, and after he finished his running, he picked up the ball. Everyone’s attention was elsewhere, and Ian was motioning for the ball. I somehow got a “Madison” out and before I even asked anything, I was thrown ball number 2, as I made an easy backhanded catch.
I then tried other opportunities, however those did not work. I decided this was a good time to take a short break. Tim Lincecum had just finished pitching in the bullpen and came out. He ended up signing autographs, and I figured sure why not. I had him sign the ball that Bumgarner threw me, and although his signature much like Ubaldo Jimenez’s looks like weird scribble scrabble, it was cool to have his signature. Thanks Tim for rewarding the few fans that were there!
I also got to see Brian Wilson but he didn’t sign autographs and his toss up went to the second deck. It was cool to see his beard.
As for the game, it did not start on time. The game did begin at 7:50 even though no rain even fell. While we waited, we got to see Matt Cain warm up.
I missed on Andrew McCutchen’s first inning toss up and Garrett Jones’s second inning toss up although I was in the right section in both instances. With Cutch’s third inning toss up, it was clearly meant for me, however it was underthrown, and I had no play on it and I tried to recover but could not in time and was not happy about it. I continued the trend in the fourth as I was not even close on the Jones tossup.
Meanwhile Charlie “Electric Stuff” Morton was dealing and pitch six plus solid innings. Good for Charlie after a poor start in his previous outing.
With no homers heading out let alone my way, I knew that I had thus far snagged two baseballs and thus tied my mark from Saturday despite not even having any BP. In the fifth inning, I set myself up in a similar position to the catch from the Thursday game against the Brewers. Ian was unaware of this position as he had not seen this and neither Erik or Nick were in play, so Cutch gave me a chance, and I made a jump similar to that Thursday catch, and sure enough caught it on the top of my glove again. It was ball number 3 of the day.
That was it for the day, as despite a cranky back yet again, I was able to run throughout the Riverwalk and left field. I left shortly after nine with the game in the sixth inning.
The listed attendance for the game was just under 10,000 however clearly less people were at the game.
I have a big day tomorrow with my media interviews. As a side note, I have been told not to post any of the quotes onto the blog and thus will respect these wishes. I may post an impressions post onto the blog, but we’ll see. Looks to be an exciting day.
Three snags is pretty good for a non rain day and someone who was tired and had four classes or so. I am now at 94 career baseballs, and thus 100 total should be coming very soon.
Balls snagged: 25
Balls given away: 15
I was glad that I was not at Friday’s game, as there was no game and it was rescheduled for Monday. I am not going to Monday’s game though although Nationals BP was good on Saturday.
Today’s game just was not a good one as I just felt tired the entire time. My back always goes out, but that was not the case last night. Still I needed only one snag to get to the 21 balls that Erik Jabs said I needed to get closer to my goal.
I immediately looked in the second deck for Easter Eggs and because of my three hours sleep the night before, I ended up missing a ball that someone else would find later. Matt Diaz also hit a ball that was in my row, but I was talking to a ballhawk named Mike. I just was so lazy and it was mine if I had even decided to run, but it did not happen.
I started to give up hope, especially since the usual toss up or two I got during BP was not happening and I was just getting really unlucky.
Just when I was ready to pack it in, Matt Diaz hit it my way. The ball was heading short, and I was playing the bounce. What I did not expect was that the bounce would be off of my leg and instead of wincing in pain, I dove where I thought the ball would land and got my first ball of the day.
You can see Diaz hitting at the top of the picture.
Although I was in centerfield at the time of the picture and was inbetween the two left field sections, I decided to recreate the dive while looking at the camera. P.S. it was raining. This was the result:
Photo taken by Colston Cooper
My running at this game was by far the worst of the season, so when an unidentified hitter came up and hit a ball to the second deck, I went running up. I ended up getting the hit ball up there which came to rest in the top row of one of the sections and was ball number two on the day. The rest of Pirates BP was a couple more misses and being ignored for toss ups.
Nationals BP was not good either as no toss up luck was coming. I even asked Chad Gaudin for one by name and he ignored me. Brian Burgess was tossing up a good deal but did not get any. I missed a few homers at center, just missed it. I then tried right field and immediately when I went up there I adjusted my position and it started to drizzle. The last ball was a bomb hit by Rick Ankiel. I had it sized up perfectly but was two rows too short.
I then walked around the park, hanging with Nick Pelescak at the Diamond Pizza and speaking to a few people, and we even chased down a squirrel that we found. The pregame festivities ended and then I caught up with Colston as the tarp was applied onto the field. The drizzle was not even that significant, and three or so innings could have been played.
I was kept updated throughout the whole thing, and the end of the conversation I was told that the big stuff was coming but slowly. When I asked when, I got no response. Then I waited and about 5-10 minutes later I was told 8:15. I was asking myself what he meant and a couple minutes later, I saw that the tarp was removed from the field and the game would start at 8:15. Guess that answered my question.
Jeff Karstens made the start tonight, and it was his best start in recent memory. He may have nailed down that fifth spot in the rotation until Ross Ohlendorf comes back.
I was never close to any Jose Tabata or Andrew McCutchen toss ups the entire night.
At Nick’s urging, I went to left field, and sure enough Jayson Werth hit a homer right to where I was standing. I was lined up to make the catch, but sure enough Nick and Erik leaped. I was praying that something would happen to where they did not get it. Unfortunately for me, Nick had it and thus I had no play on it. I was not happy, but at least I was in the play this time.
I had no more luck and around 10, I left. I finally was starting to sprint between the middle of the riverwalk and left field, and had suffered a cramp in my pectoral muscle that for a second I thought could have been serious. I am more than fine, and I plan on being at the park on Tuesday weather depending.
Totals thus far:
Baseballs Given Away: 14
Games Attended: 5
Here is a final picture for you:
Total Balls Snagged: 20
Total Balls Given Away: 14
Total Balls Snagged Via Hit: 8
Total Balls Snagged Via Thrown: 9
Total Balls Found: 3
Total Balls Given Away Thru Four Games Last Season: 7
My favorite Snags Thus Far:
1. First Ball that I snag each year is special, and although it wasn’t exactly thrown or hit, it was found on the bleacher general admission area and the ball had a nice hole in the middle. A nice way to start the season right away.
2. Andrew McCutchen toss-ups were common last season, and I got my first on Saturday when my seats were in section 141. I had no chance of moving, as all of center field was packed, and thus had to hope that someone would drop the tossups, as all I could do was backup the throw. Sure enough two people dropped it, and I correctly predicted where the drop would land, and it dropped right into my glove.
3. My first true run of the year was on Thursday, and I finally was able to run close to 100%. I am almost certain that Ryan Braun hit a BP home run and Nick Pelescak was running right behind me, and I tracked it just in time.
4. Lastly was my most athletic catch so far. Andrew McCutchen was going to toss up hs fifth inning toss-up, and I kept adjusting my position because of Erik and Nick doing the same. Ballhawks were converging all over me hoping I would drop the toss-up as Cutch was throwing me the ball. The throw was a little long, and luckily I timed a jump correctly and got the ball off the top of my glove with the ballhawks breathing down my neck. Not bad, and it showed that I was for real and changed my strategy from last season.
I came off a huge eight ball performance in the previous game, and knew that I was taking a huge risk by coming today. Going into today, I had a streak of 14 straight games of snagging at least one baseball. Erik Jabs told me that in order to reach my goal of 128 baseballs, my average would have to be in the three or four balls a game range, and going into the game, I was over five. He told me that I would have to snag 21 baseballs before the end of the month, and going into tonight’s game, I had snagged 16 in three games. Thru three games last season, I had five baseballs and thus I am well ahead of where I was at last year, in fact, more than three times better.Thru four games last season, the total was boosted to seven, so could I top the two balls I caught in game four last season?
Going into the game I was not sure of what my goal should be. My lowest game was snagging four baseballs twice. I have gotten off to a fast start in April and had set a goal of two with the understanding that it may be too much to ask for. I had only 30 minutes of BP, mostly filled with Pirates just hitting lefties and no real lefty power. I was going to be on the field for Season Ticket Holder of the Game and this would take away from an eventful and snagging filled total.
I was actually worried that I would get shut out and the Pirates were not hitting much of anything out and they weren’t throwing any tossups, in fact one trainer robbed Erik of a snag much to the delight of Daniel McCutchen.
Something that pleased me, was that I was getting close to full strength. My running patterns and speed today were the best they have been all season, and I was able to cover a lot of ground. I nearly beat out Erik for a batted ball that normally would easily have been his snag. I was in the middle of left field and then ran close to the foul pole and just got beat out. A ball immediately then came Nick Pelescak’s way and I had to sprint all of the way back to a center table and just got there in time but Nick got it as his glove got down before mine. If I can cover that much ground without gasping for air, then the other ballhawks are in trouble.
I am recovering from there run here.
I did get lucky during the first group of Brewers BP as I was able to snag a homer for ball number 1. This extended my streak of consecutive balls in a game to a respectable 15 straight games, as I have not been shutout since August 20, 2010 a game against the Florida Marlins.
It was 5:30 at this point, and I was to meet my agent, but I first wanted to search center field for Easter Eggs. I found nothing and quickly searched the back row and found nothing. Because I checked out the back row, I missed out on a BP homer to Jim Saylor. I was disappointed as I had a feeling that things would start to pick up, but at this point I was late in meeting my person so that I could be recognized on the field.
My agent gave me to feeling that we would be on the field for BP and that excited me, however we were taken to the conference room to sit for 15 minutes. I had mixed emotions, as my body was physically exhausted for the wear and tear of the homestand and media obligations Wednesday. I still was a competitor and the day was looking to be a less than stellar one.
The idea was for us to be on the field at 6 to watch the end of their BP, but the Brewers just like yesterday were trotting off the field when we all got on.
When I went out to the area, I immediately saw a baseball that was left there and grabbed it for ball number 2. At that point I just stood on the field with others waiting for our various honors. Here is the pass we were given so that we could go on the field.
Photo taken by Colston Cooper
I had to wait the longest in the line there, as the other two people were throwing out pitches. I did get to play catch with the Pirate Parrot. I already had played catch outside, but there really wasn’t anything better to do, and plus not many get to do that. We were quite close together though and that made it a little more predictable but it was still a good time.
I then was recognized standing out on the field all by myself. I had to wave for what seemed like forever. I thought I had forced my smile but that was not the case.
While on the field, Clint Hurdle came and made small talk with us while shaking out hands.
”Back for more,” he asked me.
Yep, I figured somebody would remember me from yesterday, but Clint actually said it. I actually wanted to ask him if BP on Sundays would continue as it did this past Sunday, but I never asked.
The following is a cell phone photo taken by Colston. This explains the poor quality.
I was supposed to deliver the lineup cards with Hurdle, however for some reason they did not do lineup cards and we went inside. I was so disappointed and thus the Pirates faced my wrath losing 4-1.
As for the ceremony itself, it was the longest 10 seconds of my life. Smiling and waving, oh dear I feel for Ms. America. Anyways, my friend Kayla was by the bullpen watching Paul Maholm warmup, and the following photo was taken while I was on the jumbotron.
I knew that I wanted to try and get the first tossup, however the elevator took two minutes or so and then I had to run from the middle of the 100′s section to the riverwalk center field area. It is not a short walk and I actually did finally bump into a woman literally when I was on the Riverwalk, I did not fall but the time may have cost me, as I missed the toss-up.
I was able to get ball number 3 by making my best catch of the year. Erik, Nick and others kept changing their position on me. I was able to realize this unlike last year and picked the right around to be by myself. The throw from Andrew McCutchen was high and my gloove felt passive and I was worried, however I was excited, as I made the athletic famly.
I am tired so going to cut this entry short. Ball number 4 came when I was by the bullpen when Herbie Andrade threw me a ball. I had reached my low of four and now stood at 20 2011 run. I now need one more ball to breaking that quota I need.
I now have snagged 20 baseballs and it is exciting. I have started out very hot and fast I am excited.
Baseballs Snagged: 20
Total Baseballs: 89
Total Baseballs given away in 2011: 14
Notes: I am only 11 balls away from 100. I am quite excited.
Next entry will and I repeat will come after the soap
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