2015 Home Run Derby, Great American Ballpark, 7/13/2015

This would turn out to be my second HRD in a row after attending last year in MIN and my third total with my first occurring at PNC Park in 2006.  At the previous two I got my hands on a HRD commemorative.  For this one I bought a seat in the Wheelchair section 4 rows back, separated from all the other seats with room to move about.  I was confident that I would be able to get at least one ball during the event itself.

After an early arrival I headed around Cincinnati to take in the sights and atmosphere.

Check out how they adorned the Scripps Center building with the moustache and hat.

building

The weather was warm and the city was buzzing with excitement it seemed.  It felt nice to be back at GABP, one of my favorite parks given the early entrance with a tour ticket, its desigh and location along the Ohio River.  I like the smokestacks, light towers and dimensions.  The fact that the ball flies there is good too.

gabp

As I circled the ballpark I came across this, “All Star Summer” piece at the Reds gate by Reds Hall of Fame.  Its medium, flowers, very well done.

all star summer

At the gate I caught up with Cole Adkins and Zack Hample.  I also met a cool guy from the bay area who was seeking to have a Mike Trout portrait signed.  Cole is a cool dude who shared a lot of good information and was good to talk baseball with.  Zack and I caught up on things after not having run into each other for a while.  I also caught up with Devon Trone and chatted baseball for a while.

zack and cole

A huge storm with torrential downpours was due to arrive, fitting for how the last month has went with rain.  I took a walk up to the deck behind CF to see what was happening on the field, and came upon the tarp coming on.  On the way back down to Gate C, which was covered with a roof, thank God, a severe weather alert bell began ringing with an announcement to seak cover.

It was pretty early at the time but it came in sheets for a good while, and then continued to steadily rain for a while.  Around 330 the skies finally started to clear, I was relieved after at some points doubting the HRD would occur.  After another check up top we saw that the field was set for the show.

When the gates finally opened the players were beginning to take the field.  Andrew Mccutchen was stepping in shortly after and I was eager to see my seat in the WC section of 405, second deck.  I was confident that I would be able to get a ball up there, but throughout the whole bp portion I came up empty handed.  One ball that was reachable from the front row up top fell short, and popped up right into my face smacking me and falling down below.  I felt discouraged at the end and pressured to get make some sort of a play during the event itself.

The 2015 HRD participants.

hrd participants

A view of RF at the start of the event.

light tower

Ken Griffey Jr and Ken Griffey Sr combined for the first pitch, always good to see my fav player all time.

griffeys

It turned out a lot better during the event as there were enough chances and close opportunities.

I was expecting a ball off the bat of Donaldson, Bryant or Frazier more so but Manny Machado put on a nice show.  After getting on a role he smashed one that went over my head into the first row behind the WC section, I was able to track it well, and with the fan error from the row above it dropped down nicely into my glove, Ball #1.

machado

Manny Machado with the hat backwards resembling Ken Griffey Jr having fun with Nelson Cruz and company.

manny

For the event, as I did last year I wore my yellow We Are Family Pirates shirt, but that would change when I heard about the deal that was offered for wearing a blue Gillette/Head and Shoulders HRD shirt.  They offered up to $500 of two tickets to a game, and a $200 dollar gift card to MLB shop.  So I wore it for that generous reward.  After getting the Machado hr I filled out the form for it and was informed I would get a call in the near future, cool.

Joc Pederson waltzed his way into the final with many smooth bombs and Todd Frazier battled his way with the excited backing of the Cincinnati crowd into the final; beating two tough competitors in Price Fielder and Josh Donaldson.

The crowd was electric with Todd Frazier and the new format creates more excitement with the head to head matches, factor of the clock, and bonus time awarded for 420/475 foot shots.

Joc Pederson rolled off another smooth 14 homers in the final round, again forcing hometown Todd Frazier to put 15 balls over the fence.

Frazier would provide a final power surge in the Final, reaching 15 for the win.  Frazier’s 5th hr of the final when the place was beginning to get excited that the win could be had reached the WC section. I took a quick step back, and a quick step to my right to make the catch.  I felt thankful for the opportunity and the ability to make the catch, and took a moment to take it in.  After settling back down I decided to give the Machado ball to an ecstatic little guy who I took in the action with.

I got a pick of the pair before giving up the first.

balls and kid

Todd Frazier really lit the place up.

fire

Again I filled out the form for the $500 dollars of tickets and $200 MLB shop gift card.  I was told by the lady she wasn’t sure you could win twice, but she would see.  As of today I haven’t gotten a call from anyone..

scoreboard

The HRD ball

ball

Sweet Spot

sweet spot

Stuff

stuff

And the only 3 x HRD winner, lets not forget..

griffey catch

Day-2

Year-252

Career-2494

Pirates v Cardinals, PNC Park, 7/10-11-12/2015

Friday July 10

This weekend series with the Cardinals was hard fought to get much going, fans from both sides were all around, everywhere.  Nothing special really occurred on this day, I scrummed two balls, and got the usual toss up from Heberto Andrade.

Saturday July 11

Excited to be on the North Shore with the series tied 1-1, and excited for finally a Saturday evening game, we have been battling out day games for much of the season on Saturdays.  Early on I ran the North Shore and completed 15.21 miles in a two hour span.  My day then took me to our family reunion on the Mexican War Streets at my uncles home where I refueled for bp.

Then it was off to PNC, where I quickly found out from those in attendance that the Pirates would not be taking batting practice, for reasons unknown to me.  Yet another obstacle on my quest to break my season personal high.

Erik J, myself, Dom C, Ted, and a few others had a good throwing session on the Clemente bridge then set off to enter.

No action, disappointment, and more boredom.

In pure desperation I decided to hang out behind some young teenagers and a few kids who were hitting to each other along the lf line.  I noticed some overthrows where the ball rolled softly onto the track.  Well, after what seemed forever, and the kid fielding the throws preventing any more balls from getting by the larger boy tossed me Ball #1.  It was about two rows over my head, a very poor toss.

Back over at the Bucs bullpen Heberto Andrade politely tossed up Ball #2.

St. Louis did take the field for a full practice, early on I took some time to camp out behind Mark Reynolds who was taking throws during infield practice.  It worked because an errant throw found its way under Reynolds glove and came right in high for an easy catch, Ball #3.

reynolds

Sunday July 12

The Saturday game versus the Cards was incredible, with several nail biting comebacks in late innings, and ending with an Andrew Mccutchen blast to the Pirates ivy in CF.  The Pirates had now taken 2 of 3 from the hated Red Birds and were poised to get to 2.5 games behind the Cardinals with a win on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

I knew I would be unable to stay long, given that I needed to get some sleep before driving to Cincinnati for the Home Run Derby.  I got to spend some time with Dominik who came for the game with my mother, he helped with two toss ups one from Mark Melancon, and one from Euclides Rojas, Ball #1 and #2.

During the Cardinals bp time I caught a homer over in the CF seats for Ball #3.

At the Pirates bullpen, Dominik wanted to take a picture of Heberto Andrade, and had a brief chat about his All Star selection in instructional league.  Heberto kindly threw a ball over the fence for Dominik after a bit, making it Ball #4 on the day.

Dominik with Melancon baseball

dom mark ball

And Dominik with Rojas ball.

pell rojas

Sadly I had to leave, but Dom and mom had a good time at the game.  The Pirates made it to 2.5 gb the Cardinals with another intense walk off win on the strength of a Gregory Polanco hit.

Past 3 games-10

Year-250

Career-2492

Pirates v Cardinals, PNC Park, 7/9/2015

Today, as is the usual for a long time now, rain threatened to ruin bp, but it held off nicely with the skies clearing.  Until about 4:25 a drizzle began, purple skies crowded together, and by the time we walked into the bleachers the rain was coming down hard, the tarp was on its way onto the field and the players on their way off of the field.

rainy day

Whilst getting soaked I determinedly searched the bleachers for a found ball to have some sort of production to the day.  I even scanned for balls stuck in the bottom of the bleachers which I have found before.  When I reached the bullpen area some sort of worker, not appearing to be groundscrew gathered up all the balls in the bullpen from bp.  He tossed me Ball #1, then went for a little kid but it was off and took a nice roll to me, I grabbed it for Ball #2 and gave it to its intended target.

There was nothing to do but lament the messy weather and count the raindrops..rain

At 5:30 I decided to check the Clemente Wall and came across Ball #3.

found ball

A bright spot of this day is that I purchased a ticket for the HRD at GABP…….

Day-3

Year-240

Career-2482

Pirates v Padres, PNC Park, 7/7-8/2015

7/7-Tuesday

Today was another narrow escape from rain falling with a 430 bp start time.  I wasn’t able to get anything going for the Mccutchen group which was disappointing, I got on board with a Heberto Andrade toss up, Ball #1 when he took the field.

The next piece of action came when a ball landed in the upper bleachers, I gave chase behind a fellow season ticket holder who was kinda quick, he beat me to it.  On the way back down to the bottom though I walked upon a soggy Ball #2.

Another rainy day, it hasn’t stopped since Mid June…

I caught a Jordy Mercer and a Justin Upton hr on the fly in LF, Ball #3, and #4.

To end things I caught a hr from an unidentifiable Padre, Ball #5.

Dreary days and nights..

Revolt

revolt

7/8 Wednesday

Optional bp for the Pirates, and there would be no Pirates.  We nearly dodged the Padres being rained out also with scattered storms and rain all around.

San Diego did take bp, it took a bit of time but I was able to scrum a pearl of a ball blasted by Justin Upton onto the steps to the upper bleachers nearest to the Pirates bullpen, Ball #1.  The ball had San Diego of the bat imprinted onto the ball.

Over in CF I got a high toss up from a Padre coach of some sort, Ball #2.

Near the end of things a ball landed onto the riverwalk and bounced down into the weeds below.  Some passerby was picking around looking for it for a moment but gave up quick.  A lady nearby kindly alerted me to where she thought it was.  I left the park to go down and search it out, and after a few minutes came up with it for Ball #3.

weeds

I stayed for a while at this game, and connected for the first time with a hit or thrown ball from young Gregory Polanco, getting his between innings warm up ball.  Ball #4.

polanco

With a low crowd I played for some game homers with no luck.  Then the rains came again, swallowing up one of the groundscrew, prompting Andrew Mccutchen and Sean Rodriguez to join the force of stopping an uncontrolled tarp blasted around by the wind.

tarp

Pirates v Padres, PNC Park, 7/6/2015

Rain, as in much of July was a threat again.  As the day wore on I was a little anxious about a washed out bp but things cleared up with time to spare.

With today being a 405 bp start I headed down to the riverwalk to play any potential bp homers by Pedro Alvarez.  Most of the time was spent gazing up at the sky with nothing to show for it, until a ball bounced near the back wall of the crosswalk.  At first I gave a run into the weeds to wait for the ball, but nothing happened.  After giving up on it I heard a little noise in the trees, and the ball fell down, nearly at my feet, Ball #1.

Inside I drew a fastball from Herbie Andrade, Ball #2.

That was it for the Pirates, but to many of the ballhawks in attendance the Padres would put on a nice show with much opportunities.

Ball #3 a scrum from an unidentified Padre.

Ball #4 a caught home run.

Ball #5 ground rule double.

Ball #6 toss up by Odrisamer Despaigne.

odrisamer

Ball #7 a caught home run.

Im looking forward to playing the likes of Matt Kemp and Justin Upton again tomorrow.

Day-7

Year-228

Career-2470

bucs v padres

 

Pirates v Indians, PNC Park, 7/3-4/2015

Friday July 3 began a ten game home stand, starting with the Cleveland Indians, crowds were likely to be big this time of year, and the Bucs have been playing well above five hundred to keep pace with the St. Louis Cardinals.  I started this home stand ahead of my pace to beat my year high of 417 baseballs, this ten game set would likely play a role in meeting my goal of the year.

Friday started with a toss up from Francisco Liriano at the wall near the North Side Notch, Ball #1, I had to lean out over the wall on the short toss but made a clean grab.

As I headed more toward straight away left in the front row I was able to knock a ground rule double down for Ball #2, and then scrummed a home run for Ball #4.  Heberto Andrade promptly whipped me a ball for #4.

Over near the LF foul pole I caught up with Michael Brantley who tossed me Ball #5, and in that same area, an usher up above left field in the foul territory seats tossed a ball down gently to me, Ball #6.  That is pretty rare to get a ball from an usher…

Anyway I had one good action shot today, one of Michael Brantley throwing in a ball to a coach who hit several practice balls.

brantley

Saturday July 4th-Independence Day

Pittsburgh’s North Shore was sure to be lively throughout the day with the Bucs game, and fireworks.  I headed down early to get in an hour long run, I nailed a personal best of 7.85 miles in an hour.  My next goal is to get under 3hr 33min 39sec at my next marathon.  With this run things look good, I then headed down to PNC after rehydrating.  When Erik Jabs arrived we had a good throwing session in the nearby park, as the streets were bustling with people.

The dreaded day game it was, but Erik and I planned out our best chances for the day, and were cheerful with all the players wishing them a nice 4th of July.

There was no bp today after a long extra inning affair the previous night, after spending a half hour watching the Bucs warm up, 230 finally hit and we made it in just in time to greet Euclides Rojas who caught a warm up session for Antonio Bastardo.  Euclides tossed up Ball #1, and Bastardo whizzed one to me for Ball #2.

This felt good to get some action on the board, then this was the scene early on over on the RF side.

4th

After a lengthy wait for all the Indians to finish up the crowd was large, I didn’t have much expectations left as many young kids and such were all around.  Near the end of it all a ball tossed up to Erik J would ricochet off his glove with some competition and came toward mine.  I scooped it off the track and handed it over to an eager kid nearby.  Ball #3.

Nick Swisher limped around fielding a few balls, and the Tribe all wailed their baseballs into the ivy, river, etc.  Swisher launched his out into the Allegheny.  Trevor Bauer tossed short knucklers and curves, some guys threw a football, it was a laid back kind of feel.

warmup

I met my wife Lauren to enjoy the game a little after its start.  We enjoyed the game with a Jeff Locke shutout and RBI knock by the Pittsburgh Kid to score Josh Harrison.  A 1-0 win for the Pirates.

Two games v Tribe-9

Year-221

Career-2463

tribe

Pirates v Braves, PNC Park, 6/26-27/2015

Hustle was what I had to do to get to the park after our team meeting for work was called at 3:30, these typically last for an hour.  I was able to keep my anxiety of getting to the park at bay pretty well and arrived at PNC Park at about 4:45pm.  After parking, I kicked in my run to a higher gear to catch the beginning of the Braves bp.  I didn’t miss any Pirates as they sat out this bp given the long extra innings loss they had the prior evening, thanks in part to Pirate killer Brandon Phillips and his Red Leg friends.

When I caught up with Erik J he displayed a Washington Nationals 10 year anniversary commemorative.  Knowing a new commemorative is in play always gives me an added dose of motivation.

With Braves gear on I went after a toss up from Horacio Ramirez, #62, an assistant coach in his second year coaching with the Braves.   Horacio payed me no attention the first time I called out for a baseball, but after a few more shouts tossed one up in no mans land, I chased after it and after a lengthy chase came up with this, Ball #1.

IMG_6285 (2)

Cameron Maybin fielded a ball in line with me, so I gave a nice shout and waved my glove in the air resulting in Ball #2, another clean Nationals 10 year commem.

maybin

The commemorative baseballs were the hi-lite of the day, I would go on to get Ball #3 from Sugar Ray Marimon, who has one of the coolest baseball names I have heard of.  Sugar Ray is from Cartagena, Colombia, his MLB debut was this April.

mirano

Hustle

Day-3

Year-210

Career-2452

hustle

Saturday, June 27

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this game with Dominik, we had a delayed start and a rain delay.  We talked baseball, had some good food, and enjoyed a nice Pirates win fueled by a 5 run first inning following Andrew Mccutchen’s 8th HBP of the year.  Andrew Mccutchen wincing in pain has become a common sight for the Pirates, yet the beanings continue.

Prior to the game Dana Eveland tossed a ball high in the air which I caught, and later Heberto Andrade tossed a ball high over the bullpen fence for Ball #2.

Day-2

Year-212

Career-2454

Pirates v Reds, PNC Park, 6/23-24/2015

Tuesday 6/23

With this being the series opener the Pirates start time for bp remained at 4:05, so we missed the entire first group.  Things did get off to a rapid start however as Heberto Andrade promptly fired me Ball #1 early on.  After this I tracked a Jordy Mercer homer in the North Side Notch section on the fly for Ball #2.  Still in motion another touched down near Jim Saylor, which he was ill prepared for, Ball #3.  Still in motion Jordy Mercer hit a third ball in my direction, this one jumped up over Erik Jabs’ reach onto the left field crosswalk where I tracked it for Ball #4.

That ended up being all for the Pirates bp, and after this the Reds continued to be poor in their bp showing, with few generous players providing any toss ups.

Todd Frazier did provide a nice bomb which I was able to scrum in an empty row with ease, Ball #5.

One of either Jay Bruce or Joey Votto lifted a high drive into the North Side notch, the sun kicked my butt on this one and I lost it just enough to lose track of it for a moment.  The soft bounce hit me in the chest and fell into my grasp without trouble, I was surprised I came away with it after losing it, Ball #6.

Ball #7 on the day was a ball that might have been in the stands for a while, I promptly got rid of it.

IMG_6146 (3)

Day-7

Year-204

Career-2446

IMG_6147 (2)

Wednesday 6/24

With the way things had started at Tuesdays bp I was excited to be able to see the Andrew Mccutchen group to start things.  Early on I caught up with Jose Tabata as he fielded a ball against the lf wall, I asked politely for the baseball and he handed it behind his head as he walked off.  Jose Tabata has been a generous guy for me this season.

Heberto Andrade fired a ball that went a bit off course to my right and low; to top it off a wild fan leaped up with his bare hand and knocked it off course, I made it over a few bleachers to recover it where it settled, Ball #2.

Opportunities were rare after this, and it turned out to be the largest weeknight crowd ever I believe with 37000 in attendance, this became evident as the bp wore on.

In CF I connected with Nate Adcock on a toss up for Ball #3.

Day-3

Year-207

Career-2449

IMG_6188 (2)

Nationals vs Rays, Nationals Park, 6/18/2015

Thunderstorms and persistent rains continued to wreak havoc on the weather forecast.  I had several options for the time off I scheduled off from work, the best of them being the Reds v Tigers with the bp tour and good Tigers bp.  This forecast was terrible ranging from 80-100 chance of rain.

That made Washington the next best option with their 430 gate time.  Erik and I headed up for D.C., about half way in the forecast changed quickly and as we drove it became more bleak with steady rain heading into Nats Park.  Things slowed down just into Washington around 3:30, and things looked good.  We both still wondered if bp would occur, the fields were dry, but the Nats had pounded the Rays the previous night and traveled to DC following.

This would seem to be what caused a no go bp for the Nats.  I grabbed a spot in the corner section in RF as the Nats warmed up on the RF line.  I wasn’t able to get a toss up from them, but Drew Storen gave me a chance at getting on the board with his decision to launch a ball way up into the upper deck 5 rows from the top of the stadium and at the edge of the top left section.

RF Nats2

I hurried up the escalator with Erik, he cautioned me to try to take it slow, but I was eager to hustle to it.  Things worked out well getting around security as I went down into the lower deck and went around them and right up into the upper deck via a nicely placed stairwell out of their site.  Things weren’t kosher when I got up there.  What usher is up there walking around that damn early, I swear he was looking for the ball, but not high enough.  My read on the ball was good and I tracked it down quick for Ball #1, 5 rows from the top.

high up

As I went for it the usher said something about am I an employee, which I said no, “Im taking some pictures.”  He was quick to start yelling at me, I picked up the ball and told him he didn’t look around good enough for the ball.  He continued to yell and walked behind me talking about he was escorting me back to my place.

Ball #2 was a toss up in RF by a Nats pitcher I couldn’t identify.

Ball #3 was a toss up in RF by a Rays pitcher I couldn’t identify.

We headed home, I was thankful that we were able to see action given the weather…..

Day-3

Year-197

Career-2439

hats

Pirates v White Sox, PNC Park, 6/15-16/2015

June 16, 2015

The Pirates were matched up interleague style with the Chicago White Sox this year with two at PNC followed by two at Cellular field.  Currently the Pirates stand to sweep the series with Gerrit Cole in line for his 11th win of the season, and Mark Melancon is in line to tie Glen Perkins of Minnesota with a 23rd save.  The Pirates will also gain a game in the standings taking them to 4 back from the hated Red Birds.

I cant say it was a good bp team in any way, pretty poor as a whole were the Pale Hoes.

I do like putting on the White Sox black and grey, and have always liked their logo/color schemes.

me

I began the day with a rare toss up from Arquimedes Caminero as he made a running catch on the track facing me as I entered the bleachers.  Ball #1.

Heberto Andrade Ball #2.

Former Bucco and now situational lefty out of the White Sox pen Zach Duke threw me a high knuckler at the wall for Ball #3.

duke

Over in the CF seats I was able to connect with Chris Sale for Ball #4.  Chris is very responsive and generous if you happen to see him.

sale 1

2 baseballs pictured

2 sold

game 1 balls

June 17, 2015

I was excited to take advantage of the Pirate 4:30 bp start meaning we would see nearly all of the Andrew Mccutchen group.  Cutch has provided much opportunity when we see him and I have been able to capitalize often with good numbers on hit balls.  Cutch hit a high homer to the back of the bleachers, I needed to hurdle three bleachers to get to it, when I did, a new rookie ballhawk was waving his P.O.S. ski pole with a baseball holder box staked onto the end, filled with tape, at me; either trying to knock it away or block me in some way.  I was able to get on it anyway for Ball #1.

Herbie Andrade decided to hook me up with Ball #2.

I gave the CF seats a look for Easter Eggs today and came up with one, another tucked against the wall and a seat by the ivy in CF.  Ball #3.  I see this often as the ushers usually don’t look too hard.

Another bonus of checking out CF was another toss up from White Sox star pitcher Chris Sale.  Ball #4.

sale 2

Ball #5 was a scrum on a bp homer that was botched by more then one person and rolled my way.

Back over in the left field bleachers it was the only good moment of the White Sox two bp’s combined as Avisail Garcia decided to go bombs away.  Ball #6 was a high homer on the crosswalk behind the bleachers, Erik Jabs was very close to catching this as well, our gloves lined up identically; Erik can cover a lot of space.

2-3 pitches later Avisail Garcia demolished one that went into the upper bleachers, more so toward the bullpens then down the line.  It was a high bomb that I was able to get to quickly, tracking it all the way down the crosswalk.  It would have been a sick play to have caught it on the fly but it had to quit to it and landed right in the front row of upper bleachers.  Being right there I quickly went up the steps and grabbed it.  Ball #7.

And that was all..

balls game 2

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