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.
This was an off day, after a long break in action I had a combination of bad judgment and bad luck which turned out a one ball day. I also dropped a homer that I reached underhanded for over the handicapped section. Scrums went bad, I was blocked on some routes, and personal errors didn’t help.
This September has been miserable aside from the trip to Fenway Park in terms of ball hawking.
Roberto Clemente Day
There would be no Pirates bp on this one, and things never really got going for me, I was able to scrum Ball #1 in the upper bleachers and got a toss up from Jared Hughes at the bullpen for Ball #2.
It would have been nice to do better on Roberto Clemente Day.
This was a rained out bp that didn’t turn out too bad. In Brewers gear I was able to get two toss ups from unidentified Brewers in the picture below, Ball #1, and Ball #2.
At the conclusion of the Brewers session I was able to get Kyle Loshe’s warmup ball as well for Ball #3.
Pittsburgh through the fog from the West End Bridge
“It aint over til its over.”
Yet, with the way this year has shaped up with the Pirates’ Golden State Warrior, biometric, conservative approach to batting practice it seems as though I am going to fall short of my goal of beating 417 my career high. This also likely means, unless Clint Hurdle leaves the Pirates and I can do some extra traveling that it will likely take two more years to get to 3000 balls lifetime.
Even with this in mind, I feel like I have been blessed with an awesome year, traveling to Miami for Marlins Park, and the HRD at GABP which led to getting premium tickets to any park after snagging two baseballs at the derby. I cant complain, and this fantastic trip made the year even better.
Well we still look like were going to have playoff baseball which also adds a lot to the overall experience, I cant wait to see what the Pirates do and be in the playoff atmosphere again at PNC and possibly elsewhere in the playoffs.
So, when I get to the “fork in the road Im just going to take it“…….
Anyway, here is my trip to Boston and Fenway Park, I try to keep the talking limited anymore with less story and more vision. This would be my 17th MLB ballpark.
Flying into New York over the Bronx, I was unable to get my eyes on Yankee Stadium from above..
Ive been to New York two times now, and still fell like I need about a week there to take it all in, maybe more. Im always amazed by the size and scale of NY..
After getting situated in Beantown we settled in for some clam chowder, and lobster rolls on the bay. Lauren and I took in a lot of the history which runs deep, from Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride to the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, Puritans and Quakers, founders of the Dec of Independence, Samuel Adams, etc, etc, etc…It takes a while if you want to see it all, the Commons Park is relaxing to hang, and the Freedom Trail is 5 miles total there and back.
I loved this picture of old and new, the Millennium Tower with the old Granary Burial Ground as a foreground.
Samuel Adams, a leader in the American Revolution…signer of the Declaration of Independence, Governor of the Commonwealth, and Ardent Patriot
Lauren and I hanging after a good dinner at Joe’s, a place suggested by a few people to have the best Clam Chowder in Boston, I got a huge bread bowl of it…
“You can observe a lot, just by watching“
Many a game has been watched from these ancient wooden seats, not sure I could manage sitting this close to someone uncomfortably for a full game.
You might not be observing all the happenings on the field from this seat.
Fenway has also used these seats for its baseball watchers over the years.
Here is a distant skyline pic of Boston from a running trail along the Charles River.
This was one of my favorite Boston skyline pics.
Turn around from this perspective and you would have the Massachusetts State House, with its 23 carat gold covered dome..
We took the time to tour Fenway Park which ended up helping me a lot with understanding how to get around Fenway Park, I would suggest it given its structure which has been added on in layers over time..
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
So here are some pics of Fenway from the tour..
Red Sox logo on the field
View of RF
Skyline view toward Boston
Countdown banner to David Ortiz, Big Papi’s 500th homer, Ive never been a Red Sox fan but Ive got much respect and awe for Papi who has been a clutch star for years.
Speaking of Big Papi, here is his ride according to one of the parking attendants, it seems as though the players need to park alongside Fenway with limited parking or space for a player garage.
High View of Monster
High View of CF, RF, and Bullpens
I’ve become an avid gardener of several fresh, healthy vegetables over the last two years, and continue to grow if you know what I mean, so the Fenway farms that they have on an otherwise useless roof top was pretty cool to me..
“Its like Deja vu all over again.”
Walking around the perimeter of another MLB ballpark is always a thrill, and Fenway is surely a gem all the way around.
Facade of Fenway Park
Home of the Red Sox, when you enter at 430 you go through a warehouse looking door…
Fenway from Landsowne Street
You go through this tunnel to enter the stands which were pretty empty given the Red Sox performance this year..
“If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.”
And through the tunnel to the inside..
I got Ball #1 on a toss up near dead center at the 420 sign, Detroit has one of these too, they are big ballparks..Detroit and Boston are very green fields.
Ball #1 at Fenway
Ball #2 was another toss up from a Red Sox player unidentified and Ball #3 was a found ball up in the CF seating above when I had a moment to look around.
Ball #4 another toss up in CF, unidentified, then a toss up from Red Sox reliever Noe Ramirez in CF fro Ball #5
A couple of shots of the Monster from the CF angle
Almost parallel to the Monster
Ball #6 was a toss by an unidentified Blue Jay close to CF
I found another ball wedged into a seat up in the CF seating area, Ball #7, and another Blue Jay toss up, Ball #8.
Ball #9 was a scrum from a deep homer that hit off this brick wall that attaches to the Monster.
Ball #10 was a caught homer on the RF crosswalk which provides nice space to roam.
6 toss, 2 found, 1 scrum, 1 caught home run
The second day at Fenway began well, as we walked to the park we had some more time so I scouted around the parking garage on Lansdowne with the hopes of getting behind the garage for some found baseballs. I thought more may have bounced out behind the parking garage but only came up with Ball #1.
Several baseballs were on the garage’s roof, but I couldn’t see a way and had a lot attendant to deal with.
Ball #2 was a baseball, one of many, tagged with a star stamp..
Ball #3 was a caught homer in RF, followed by a caught homer, Ball #4, on the Monster, which I was given access to one side of. Half of it was roped off for whatever reason, my Red Sox Nation pass didn’t help. Ball #5 a caught homer off the bat of Troy Tulowitzki. It was cool to catch three consecutive homers in each outfield seating section of Fenway.
Ball #6 was a scrum and Ball #7 a toss up by Munenori Kawasak.
3 caught homers, 2 toss ups, 1 scrum, 1 found
A view of the Fenway crowd
Two day total-17
My goal going into this one was to get to 300 balls on the year. It had been a major drag with the amount of bp which has been shortened or cancelled as a whole, I was focused on getting to my goal. Of course, their would be a barrier to doing so, with no Pirates bp given that they traveled home from Miami the previous night.
Upon entering the lf bleachers I was surprised to see an easter egg laying in the front row for Ball #1.
To me, two Rockies players put on a show, Nolan Arendo and Carlos Gonzalez. So far in the series I have three hit balls from Arenado. Ball #2 on this one came on a scrum in lf bleachers.
After changing to Rockies apparel I gave CF a go, coming away with Ball #3 from Dustin Garneau, and Ball #4 from Christian Bergman. 300, finally, feels like it has taken forever to get to a nice round number.
This day at the ballpark started with a long throwing session with Ted L, and Erik on the Clemente bridge which got my legs feeling good for bp.
Upon entering Heberto Andrade was already in LF, given the day off from pitching bp, he noticed me and tossed up Ball #1.
Up on the lf crosswalk I was able to make a nice catch of an Andrew Mccutchen homer for Ball #2.
Things got hot for a good while for the rest of the Pirates and Rockies bp.
Ball #3 was a caught homer from Aramis Ramirez.
Ball #4 a caught homer from Michael Morse, great look by Erik to alert me to this one, I had like a second maybe to notice this and catch it after tracking a previous hr.
Nolan Arenado had continued to mash in the direction of left center, deep on the crosswalk. I was able to get to Ball #5 on a scrum way down toward the bleachers, and on the way back over toward left made a leaping catch of a Nolan Arenado hr for Ball #6.
This was the starting point for four caught homers today, which was a nice boost to an August struggle.
My good friend Jen from work and her husband made it today, their first born is due within a week. The little one brought me a little luck tonight with the four caught homers and 6 ball night.