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………..
I guess I can say that a toss up of an Opening Day Commemorative from Andrew Mccutchen between innings would have been my first hi-lite of the year. It would be the first Opening Day Commemorative of my collection.
For a not so good moment of the season I turn to the walk up to Progressive Field, where a major facelift went on in the offseason. Entire sections of the right center field seating were taken out for a redesigned bullpen, and other renovations. To top it off, the gate times were pushed back a half hour. A once gem of a ballpark to ball hawk at turned mediocre like many other parks.
A windy day in Philadelphia, playing catch outside of Citizens Bank Park to begin the year. This wind was incredible, Erik and myself struggled to make throws as it whipped around. It was a good trip as we got to see the Pirates and started the season off well. I came away with a Gerrit Cole autograph as well..
Cherry Blossoms outside of Nationals Park
Early on in the season, in April I made the trip to Marlins Park in beautiful Miami..
Chilling out front waiting to get in, Marlins Park was real fun to explore, heavily unpopulated and easy to ball hawk. Lots of vibrant colors in all the pictures I was able to take in Miami..
I try to take a nice long run in every city I go to to explore, this pic was from a bridge over the Biscayne Bay on the way to South Beach.
The All Star Game made it to Cincinnati and I made it into town for the Home Run Derby.
My biggest hi-lite of the year came at an action packed HRD snagging a Machado homer on a bounce and a Frazier homer on the fly in his final round. Which led to a trip to Fenway park, two premium seats for two games with my one and only..
I could go on at length on the Boston trip which was fun filled with sightseeing, good food, and a lot of good ball hawking at Fenway. Here is a pic of the end product.
And one of many fine pics of the unique and eccentric world that is Fenway, a very green place indeed..
Pittsburgh shrouded in fog from the West End Bridge..
This picture is my favorite of me for the year, a nice action shot throwing prior to the NL Wild Card game v Cubs on the Roberto Clemente Bridge. We put in work prior to each game that we can..
To cap of the hi-lites of the year it would have to be seeing my son Dominik catch his first toss up independently, and then pursue the signature, a Success!
Jumbo Diaz is a large man.
To a phenomenal, blessed year of health, happiness and peace, cant wait to get back at it in 2016.
I had a feeling for much of the second half of the year that if the Pirates met the Cubs in the Wild Card game, likely facing the now CY Young award winner Jake Arrieta, it would be a loss. Add the Cubs young power, with a nothing to lose mentality against a Pirates team hoping to avoid another WC game failure against a regular season ace in that of Arrieta and you know the rest. It played out as I thought it would.
The Pirates just couldn’t get it right to win the division, even with a Cardinals team that struggled hard with injury. A slow start, and the record versus the Reds and the Brewers were just enough to put us back into a WC game matchup.
One of my most vivid memories of the 2014 season, sadly, was seeing Brandon Crawford lift one onto the Clemente Wall for a grand slam to give the Giants a 4-0 lead. Madison Bumgarner, the most dominant NL pitcher with a record breaking, phenomenal post season went on to silence the Bucs and end the promising season.
This year, sadly, I wont forget seeing the Kyle Schwarber towering homer which landed in the Allegheny on the fly. The Cubs played with too much swagger and confidence for the Bucs and moved on. Jake Arrieta did what everyone thought he would do, striking out 11 for a CG game.
I started off my ball hawking for the WC game the day before as the teams would have a practice prior to game day. It turned out that both teams hit prior to my arrival, much earlier then anticipated. I decided to search through the grasses outside of the stadium one last time to see what could be found. It was methodical and payed off.
6 Found baseballs, some rather new..
Onto the game itself,
Pre-Game throwing session on the Roberto Clement Bridge..
Always a good session to be had on the bridge..
On the inside I started things on a toss up from Herbie Andrade for Ball #7, with a high toss up to follow from Pedro Florimon for Ball #8.
Chicago’s powerful lefty combo of Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber had been putting on a show consistently at PNC Park this year so the best part of this bp would be from this spot from behind “The Hawk,” Andre Dawson, on the PNC river-walk.
This would be the area of my final action of the year it turned out, and it was good action indeed. With a large crowd I made two nice plays, both on Anthony Rizzo shots onto the Riverwalk, caught on the fly, with a bit of applause to follow. A good way to end the 2015 season.
This would be the last game of the year for the Bucs, I took Dominik and was witness to my favorite snag of the year.
Here we are posing by my favorite statue.
Dom and I played catch for a bit on the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
There wouldn’t be much to see on the inside today, I came up with a Heberto Andrade toss up twice in LF and at the bullpen for Dom.
My hi-lite of the day would be seeing Dominik catch his first ball, he is on his own at bp now. His first toss up came from the Reds bullpen slinger Jumbo Diaz.
Dominik moved in for an autograph of the ball after the snag.
That was it for the 2015 regular season for the Pirates, a good way to come to an end.
Season Total-338, with the Wild Card game v Cubs remaining
This would end up being my last evening game bp of the regular season. I cant complain with how it went.
Heberto Andrade greeted me with a baseball upon entrance for Ball #1, I will probably purchase him a nice cigar to give to him at the Wild Card game, should we play it in Pittsburgh. There hasn’t been many games this year that he didn’t throw me a baseball.
Ball #2 was certainly up there with my best catches of the year, and maybe up there with tops in my career. On the crosswalk near the end of the Bucs bp a Pirate, I think Sean Rodriguez lifted one onto the crosswalk to the far right. I chased it down across a whole section into a wide open area all alone, closed in with a full extension and with a leap made the grab. Applause rang out and Arquimedes Caminero seemed to like the play as he gave an out signal. If that was my last caught homer of the year it would be a nice one to end on.
Ball #3 was a toss from one of these hooded Reds in the pic below.
Ball #4 was an easter egg in the CF seating section.
Ball #5 was a scrum near the North Side Notch.
Jose Iglesias is a nice man, he spotted me for a toss up after he fielded a ball in LF toward the end of bp for Ball #6. Here’s Jose feeding the crowd another baseball.
Erik, Dom and myself decided to join Cole Adkins who was in from Cincinnati visiting PNC Park for the first time.
Over above the Reds dugout I caught up with Jose Iglesias again, he whizzed one at me as he playfully ran off the field for Ball #7.
Jose Iglesias is a nice man, signing some graphs in the rain.
I caught up with Cole Adkins at the HRD this year and at PNC which was cool, he is a nice dude too.