To begin this series I was able to reach way up over the glove of Baseball Joe to catch what would be the first toss up from Pirates prospect Alen Hanson, Ball #1.
Ball #2 came from Jordan the new bullpen catcher who apparently likes to go out of his way to prevent ball hawks from catching baseballs. As of yesterday Zack Hample had some words with Jordan on twitter after Jordan noted that Zack needed to earn his baseballs. Anyway, the baseball from Jordan was a Cubs commemorative from up in the open handicapped seating section, my third Cubs 100th year at Wrigley field baseball.
Thanks Jordan, not sure how all this is going to end up with you patrolling left field but its great that Herbie Andrade is back to his giving ways..
Also back was Jung Ho Kang, who is bringing some additional power to the left field seating sections. I tracked one of his high homers for Ball #3 of the day.
Herbie, and Jung Ho are positives moving forward.
Things then got interesting with the rest of the Pirates and the beginning of the Braves. Speed and agility helped me get to three baseballs in a row. Ball #4 a scrum covering a couple sections to my right including a few bleacher hurdles and then Ball #5 a scrum covering a couple sections to my left near the North Side Notch. A low crowd provided the opportunity and I capitalized.
Ball #6 was a scrum of a baseball in the center field seating that several guys couldn’t get to as they lost track of the balls location, I figured to give it a shot and went in to check the lower seats where everyone wasn’t and was rewarded for the effort.
Also over in the CF seats I lined up with Mallex Smith as he made a running catch at the CF wall for Ball #7. Mallex would go on to hit two HR’s in the game.
Not much to talk about in this one, Ball # 1-2 were via scrum during the Pirates portion of bp, and Ball 3-4 were found in CF. That actually is something to talk about with how good the Pirates ushers are at finding each and every baseball every day.
Ball #5 was worth commentary as well, it was likely the longest batting practice homer I have caught on the fly. It was caught behind the center field seating section and sailed in over the popcorn stand pictured below. Hell of a ball to track from my position near the gate to behind the CF seats. Id venture to say the distance would be close to 450 ft from home plate from the spot of the catch.
Ball #6 was scrummed from another Braves lefty, proving the Braves to be a decent bp team in the first two games of the series.
I had a really nice stretch going until this one which ended in 4 baseballs. Alen Hanson threw me Ball #1 then went in to hit and slammed one out into the left field seats which was caught on the fly for Ball #2. That’s three from Alen Hanson in the series so far so I’m hoping he will stay around for a while.
Tyler Flowers lined a home run with authority to left field in the third row. I was able to grab it on the fly and gave it to a kid in the front row who never saw it coming. Ball #3.
Alexi Ogando provided a thrown baseball for Ball #4 to wrap things up.
This one began with a scrum and a caught hr on the fly but the story of the day was that Herberto Andrade was back in left field with a glove, a smile and two baseballs; one for myself and one for Erik Jabs.
Good to see ya
Ian Krol was generous to throw me Ball #4 which concluded the action for this Pirates v Braves series. The Braves turned out to be a much better bp hitting team then anticipated and were fair with toss ups as well.
Total-21 baseballs, 7 given away
This was a much anticipated second trip to the Queen City, a three game trip with the Pirates in town. Cincinnati has been a worthwhile trip since I have been going there, and continues to be a gem of a park to catch baseballs at.
For a week prior to the series rain and thunderstorms were predicted for each of the days I planned the trip.
This was the weather scene heading across the Roebling suspension bridge across the Ohio river from Covington, KY into Cincinnati.
Despite much precipitation the Reds still took bp as things lightened up just enough come 4pm.
Arriving at GABP
Things began well early on with a toss up from Layne Somsen followed by two scrums and a toss up from a Reds player I couldn’t identify.
Over here with Ken Griffey Jr I was able to find three baseballs…
Something unheard of nowadays at PNC Park..
Over in this same section I tracked a foul ball during bp, and acquired a toss up from a Reds player I couldn’t identify which brought the total of this game to 9 baseballs, this being without a Pirates bp as Clint Hurdle and the Pirates opted for no bp.
It was however easy to connect on two toss ups from two of the more friendly Pirates..
Francisco Liriano for Ball #10
Jared Hughes for Ball #11
And during the game a toss up from Adam Duvall in between innings with a warm up baseball, final of the day to reach 12 baseballs.
Reds batters took advantage of Jon Niese for three homers to the LF seats, none of which were close enough for me to get to (Barnhardt, Votto and Cozart). The Pirates failed to put together much of an offense and came up short 3-2.
This one was a certified rained out bp and turned out to be a postponed game, I was able to get around to find 4 baseballs between the lower first and lower third sides of the field, indicating that either the Pirates or Reds hit or threw at some point of dry weather. Not sure if I can make it to the makeup so I counted the 4 found as a part of yesterdays ball game.
It was a pretty significant storm with lightning and all, here was the scene coming across the Roebling bridge with a perspective of Paul Brown Stadium.
The weather was uglier then the Steelers v Bengals wild card game back in January, and that’s a hard one to top.
Earlier I was able to take in some sights around Cincinnati on a healthy run through the city.
A place of meditative calm amidst a clamorous world, I completed the walk through the labyrinth letting go of worries or stress, reflected on the process at the middle and came out with a new perspective.
Full view of this labyrinth which is situated along the Ohio just across the Roebling bridge.
I was unable to document this one with pictures as my cell phone was low on battery. There was actually a lot to photograph as the Pirates were out in full and I wore my WE ARE FAMILY yellow shirt which attracted some good attention.
Toss ups from Pirates players included:
Marte (no look behind the back high toss up), Arquimedes Caminero of whom will not even give you a look at PNC, Tony Watson who I rarely get to see at PNC, Euclides Rojas, and Gerrit Cole
The total for the day in Cincinnati ended at 16 baseballs:
2 caught homer, 1 g.r. double, 2 scrums, 5 found
Caleb Cotham toss up..
Two game total-32, 6 given away.
The Cubs are who we thought they were, and then some at this point. I’m glad they aren’t a team who doesn’t take bp as Joe Maddon exclaimed not too earlier in the year given their hot bats which haven’t cooled a bit.
Chicago took full bp Monday and Tuesday of the series.
Clint Hurdle handed me a baseball off the warning track to get things started for the day.
Ball #2-Dexter Fowler home run scrummed from the stairwell and gate to the Clemente Wall seats.
Ball #3-Dexter Fowler toss up of a homer that sailed over his head as he sprinted to the wall.
This was a fun game as all six of the baseballs I snagged were hit balls on the scrum. Good thing my legs were feeling good again following my recent 3:34 run of the Pittsburgh Marathon 5/1 because I used them a bunch.
Ball #1-Andrew Mccutchen bomb into the upper bleachers.
Ball #2/3-Sean Rodriguez bomb’s into deep portion of LF bleachers at North Side Notch.
Ball #4-Kris Bryant bomb to deep portion of LF bleachers at North Side Notch.
Ball #5-Scrum of unknown Cub homer in upper bleachers.
Ball #6-HR scrum in RF seating.
Wednesday day game, which was education day at PNC Park, meaning many, many young kids everywhere. I left the Pirates pitchers warm up alone, no need to try to get a toss up when there are kids everywhere.
Over in Cubs territory after their warm up I was able to connect with Justin Grimm to get on the board with Ball #1.
I posted up at the gate of the CF seating as the Cubs feature a handful of good left handed hitters who can rake. Even with the education day in hand this area was left to be pretty unpopulated, and for the first time since September 15, 2013 I came up with a Gem of the Diamond game time homer on the fly. Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the third smoked one off Juan Nicasio perfectly onto the crosswalk behind the handicapped seating. Also cool was this was the first homer caught in my new Bryce Harper edition Rawlings glove. Ball #2.
I was hoping to be closer to 75 at the end of the first month of baseball, but with bad luck with the weather this was a goal left unmet. Early in April a Cleveland road trip as well as a double game chance at a WASH/BALT were washed away.
My previous two games at GABP proved to keep me close enough to goal pace for 410 baseballs this year.
Ball #2-Pirates new bullpen catcher
Ball #3-Heberto Andrade, who now has yet to be seen in left field during bp in a long time, not having the automatic toss up from Andrade will certainly make reaching this years goals harder.
Lauren helped assist the toss up by giving Herbie a good wave.
From the Pirates I was able to get on board first with a scrum of Jordy Mercer homer, Ball #1.
Over on the Reds side moving to RF and CF got a toss up from Eugenio Suarez at the steps of the dugout, Ball #2.
In CF I got Caleb Cotham’s attention for Ball #3, and followed up the day with a caught homer back in LF for Ball #4.
End of April-63
I love Cincinnati, GABP has always been good to me. With a slow start to things in Pittsburgh this year it was good to get to GABP for two games with the Rockies with the early bp tour and a good Rockies bp.
This time around I stayed across the Ohio River in Kentucky, with the walk to the park being about a mile from Covington, KY to Cincinnati.
Coming across the Roebling suspension bridge which looks similar to the Brooklyn bridge, into the Queen City.
Sing the Queen City
I caught up with Cole Adkins shortly after arriving, we got some Jimmy Johns, talked baseball and got ourselves tickets for the bp tour.
With a low crowd I decided to use the CF corner spot by the batters eye which got me toss ups of Ball #1-Jon Roscot, and #2-Billy Hamilton, also cool was the opportunity to have a short conversation with Billy Hamilton. Hamilton was practicing robbing home runs which Billy Hatcher was placing well for him.
I was able to congratulate Hamilton for his robbery of a Matt Carpenter home run on Jackie Robinson day. I also asked him how often he practiced robbing home runs; to which he replied he does each practice until he robs one.
Still wearing this old Mitchell and Ness Pete Rose jersey.
Billy Hatcher continued to provide some flyball practice in RF. After waiting for a few Hatcher hit one a little too hard which was an easy catch at the wall for Ball #3.
On my way back to the corner spot in CF a homer was hit into the front row which was an easy pick up of Ball #4.
Tony Congrani was kind when he wandered near CF and tossed my Ball #5.
To close out the Reds bp I was able to get to a Joey Votto homer for Ball #6.
During bp I noticed several baseballs land in the LF and Left CF seating, and the access to LF was soon to come. It is always a sprint into the seats up a ramp with several others so you should have an idea where your going and be quick about it.
At the horn I got a nice jump and made it into the seats first and found Ball #7, and Ball #8.
After a bit of the Rockies bp, which proved to be pretty good, Cole Adkins snagged a home run ball which was a Cubs 100th year at Wrigley commemorative.
Colorado was just in Chicago, which I hadn’t factored into this trip but benefited from this on a Jorge De La Rosa toss up, Ball #9.
For double digits an unidentified Rockie’s player tossed me up Ball #10.
To end things it was easy to get behind the dugout of the Rockies and the ump for the night tossed up a handful of baseballs to fans, one of which was Ball #11 to end the night.
Pic with Cole and Erik.
After checking out of my hotel at 11am I had ample time to kill. Cole was around early for getting autographs luckily so after having Jimmy Johns for lunch again we met up and had a throwing session outside of the home plate gate.
With still more time left it was a good chance to walk through the Reds Hall of Fame museum, which had some new features including some great looking paintings of past and former players.
Yankees Legends over Yankee Stadium
Babe and Pete
Hats of the 2015 NL All Stars
Ken Griffey Jr batting gloves and other memorabilia..
Things inside GABP began with a toss up from Reds coach Jim Riggleman, followed by another toss up from Billy Hamilton as he practiced in CF, Ball #1-2.
For the rest of the Reds bp I came through with only a toss up from Scott Schebler for Ball #3.
LF was littered again with baseballs which a handful of people had their eyes on, at the horn I made it to the seats quickly to get Balls #4, 5, 6.
With the Rockies pitching staff wrapping up their warm up session it was good timing moving from LF to foul territory where I got toss ups from Miguel Garcia, and Nick Hundley. Ball #7, 8 with the Nick Hundley being a worn out Cubs 100th year at Wrigley commemorative.
I then headed back to LF for the Rockies bp which includes Trevor Story who puts on a good show. I decided to play Story in the upper bleachers and got one of his homers which made it into the last row of the first upper bleacher section, a bomb, Ball #9.
Ball #10 was a toss up from Jordan Lyles, and then I got into some good action with the Rockies lefties Carlos Gonazalez and Ben Paulsen.
Out deep in CF I caught a Ben Paulsen ricochet that landed under the smokestacks of CF, and a Carlos Gonzalez homer on the fly under the smokestacks as well. Ball #11, 12.
Back over in LF I caught a homer from an unidentified Rockies player for Ball #13.
Two Game Total-24
Friday 4/15 v Brewers
This one began with a toss up from who I believe to be is a bullpen catcher. He lingered around the outfield throughout bp on another day in which Heberto Andrade was absent from.
Ball #2, and the last one I would get during bp was a toss up from Kyle Lobstein. It was good that I would be staying for the games entirety, which payed off later on.
My only real option was to hang around the bullpen, the seats in CF, and RF would be packed on a Friday night making an in between inning warm up ball unlikely.
Hanging out with my friend Lauren, PNC Lady, I caught a toss up from a Pirates coach, Ball#3, and a toss up from Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel,Ball#4. Both high tosses over the bullpen fence.
Pittsburgh skyline pic prior to game.
During the game I was able to catch the Andrew Mccutchen 5th inning warm up ball, Ball #5, and second of the year tossed by Cutch.
Saturday4/16 v Brewers
Saturday began with a caught homer off Mccutchen on the LF crosswalk, Ball #1.
Followed by a rare toss up from Arquimedes Caminero, Ball#2.
Over in CF after the Pirates I donned some Brewers gear and reeled in a toss up, Ball #3 from an unknown Brewer as well as a toss up from former Pirate Keon Broxton, Ball #4. Keon hit me last year in Philadelphia, and appeared to be more friendly then most so my positioning for him payed off. Broxton, although he has now since went down to AAA with the call up and ensuing starting pitching loss of Kyle Davies today, was having a fun time and mimicked shooting a free throw on the toss.
Best pic I could get, hopefully he gets back up to the MLB..
To cap things off I caught another homer in LF for Ball #5.
Sunday 4/17 v Brewers
The Dreaded Sunday game…
began with a toss up at the bullpen fence from Gerrit Cole, and ended with a toss up from a Brewer coach, friendly, who seems to find me in Brewers gear often..
2 Baseballs, no bp..
I headed home to watch from the couch, the Bucs wore their 1979 WS Championship year uniforms, and won on a strong showing by Juan Nicasio, and good offense with a second straight homer game for Mccutchen.
This Brewers gear is one of my fav road team gear combo..
3 game set-12 baseballs
Detroit was in town for two after a two gamer in Detroit for inter league ball. Game two v Detroit would be a day game so this would be it for seeing Detroit in Pgh.
The day started with a toss up from Heberto Andrade, Ball #1, which has been the only one from him since. Andrade has not been on the field for two games straight at bp since, so something must have changed with his role, likely pitching to a group of Pirates.
Andrew Mccutchen has proved to be the man hitting the most bp long balls, he crashed one onto the steps to the upper bleachers which bounced right to me for Ball #2.
For Ball#3, I caught a Mccutchen homer at the top of the steps to the crosswalk, a prime spot for Andrew Mccutchen homers, my first caught homer run of the season.
Over in the corner spot of CF by the ivy I finally managed a toss up from Justin Verlander. I would have to check, but in a collection of balls tossed by pitchers with a no hitter under their belt I believe I am near double digits.
Shout out to the Detroit gear.
As things stand, the weather has been nasty cold, snowy, windy, and presents itself all over the east coast. In the opening week, I had plans for a Cleveland game, and a double dip 4/9 trip with Erik Jabs to do a day Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins then Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays. Weather has made each of these three trips lost opportunity.
Things had been getting better by the game in the opening Pirates series v Cardinals which was positive.
4/5 Pirates v Cardinals
Heberto Andrade has been off the usual routine with the toss ups but after some dancing around the outfield and singing to warm up he came around to throw baseballs to myself and Erik, Ball #1.
Following this I caught up with Francisco Liriano who has always been friendly to me, and was tossed Ball #2 at the North Side Notch.
With Michael Morse batting, a homer was launched into the upper bleachers which took a wild bounce through a couple sections which I finally caught up to after a chase for Ball #3.
That would be all for me during Pirates bp, and after a few minutes the cages were brought down and wheeled off the field, no Cardinals portion of bp.
St. Louis took infield practice so I put my Cardinals hat on and waited above their dugout. It would work out as I got a toss up from a Cardinal coach, Ball#4, and found a game ball sitting in the stands on the way out, Ball #5.
4/6/2016 Pirates v Cardinals
This one got off to a running start, Andrew Mccutchen was unloading on baseballs and had some nice wind to push them out more. Without a caught homer yet I was hoping to get a Mccutchen on the fly. This didn’t come to fruition, but Cutch landed two in the upper bleachers, both of which I got to, Ball #1-2.
Herbeto Andrade kept to form and threw me Ball #3. What a guy.
Starling Marte has always been a reliable, fun loving target for toss ups when he is playing the outfield, he likes to leap at the wall for catches and jump up to the crowd. He is always tossing baseballs up and I was in position for one of his running catches at the wall and got the toss up for Ball #4. With a young kid nearby I decided to give this one up.
On the left field cross walk I was able to come up with another scrum for Ball #5.
Cardinals gear worked out for the second day in a row with a CF toss up, Ball#6, an unidentified Cardinal.
I stayed around for a while for the game. The Pirates would end up sweeping the Cardinals to start the year, off the strength of a strong first Pirate performance by Juan Nicasio.
In CF I got a third ball via Andrew Mccutchen with the first inning warm up ball prior to the start of the game. Ball #7.
Total of 3 game series-16
It was certainly the coldest opening day I have attended, I dressed in several layers, used gloves, tossil cap, etc to stay warm throughout the game, and the wait for batting practice.
Where else to begin but with Roberto Clemente, when I arrived to check out the scene around 9am it was 30 degrees.
I took in the surroundings and sat in the rising sun which was mostly unblocked by clouds throughout the day making the cold more bearable. Winds were intermittent helping matters as well.
I enjoyed a little quiet and warmth, and warmed up throwing on the Clemente bridge when friends arrived, Erik J, Ted L, Jim S.
It was a disappointing start when the Pirates abruptly ended their bp, either starting earlier or finishing inside. It made me wonder about the Hurdle rest and relax approach to begin things.
With the entire park open to all I made a run for the Clemente Wall and things worked out well as I found Ball #1, 2, and 3 of 2016, one being a Florida Spring Training Commemorative.
Clemente Wall pic with Jim S (back again after entertaining retirement)
The Cardinals bp was bad, with it being as cold as it was the balls had little carry off the bats. Opportunities were few.
Checking out the Florida Spring Training at the bullpen.
This baseball really had ice on it, so it must have sat from the Cardinals practice the previous day.
Had a good slice of pizza then returned to the bullpen prior to the start of the game when Cory Luekbe, and Kyle Lobstein completed some extra work. Euclides Rojas threw an assortment of balls into the crowd, one high randomly which I caught for Ball #4.
National Anthem pic
The Awards Ceremony included:
Andrew Mccutchen Silver Slugger 4 x in a row. Starling Marte 2015 Gold Glove, and Wilson Defensive Player of Year.
As for the game I watched from the CF gate, and caught up with some friends. I later was able to join Erik J in the 200 level to watch a good portion of the game. Francisco Liriano fanning 10 and looking sharp was the story just as much as the number of sweet defensive plays spearheaded by David Freese, and the Jaso/Rodriguez combination at 1st base.
Cant complain, Baseball is back….
My primary goal for the year was to get 400 baseballs, which early on was well within reach given a nice start and a few big games in Miami to go along with a couple other short road trips. I was hoping to get to 400 at least so that 3000 total baseballs would be attainable during the 2016 year.
As the season went on Clint Hurdle presented a huge barrier to meeting this goal as he used a monitoring of activity approach, with lots of rest and relaxing when it came to practicing. Many bps were cut short or cut all together as the season wore on, making it near impossible for me to reach my 400 ball goal and made me miss several games which would have helped me reach my 80 game goal.
Let me tell you, all that rest and relaxation really payed off when the Cubbies whipped our ass in the Wild Card game.
Another barrier to meeting the 400 baseball mark was that Cleveland renovated/destroyed the best place in MLB to ball hawk and shortened the time to be spent inside the gates.
Goal 1-400 total balls
Result-348 total balls
2016 Goal-410 balls to reach 3000 total
Goal 2-attend 80 games
Result-71 games attended
2016 Goal-attend 80 games, I will need to stick around a lot to meet the 410 and 3000 goal with the way Clint Hurdle sits on his ass and has everyone else sit on their ass
Goal 3-visit three new ballparks
Result-two new ballparks both of which exceeded my expectations and were awesome trips, MIA-Marlins Park and BOS-Fenway. I was also able to get back to CLE x 1, PHI x 1, WASH x 2, and CIN for the HRD. Cant complain at all with that.
2016 Goal-I’m running thin on ballparks to travel within reasonable driving distance as I have been to most east coast and southern parks. I would like to get to at least two new ballparks in 2016; if the stars align Id like to get to Wrigley and Cellular on a trip and out to LA for Dodgers Stadium.
Goal 4-5.25 avg bpg
Goal 5-snag 3 game time homers
Result-0, I got a hold of two homers during the HRD, no game time homers though. Simply not enough luck and not enough time to spend enough time at the ballpark given that I have a family to come home to which trumps chasing game time homers any day.
2016 Goal-2, If I can find time to stick around………..