2011 Season Review, Best Moments, Goal Review
Here is my goal review portion of this blog for the 2011 season.
Goal #1-Attend 70-75 games.
I was able to attend 70 games on the nose. 56 at PNC, 8 at Cleveland, 4 at Texas, and 4 at Washington. If not for excessive rainouts at PNC this year I would have definitely hit 75 games or more.
Goal #2-Finish in the top 3 of MyGameBalls.
I finished with a total 0f 343 balls behind Zack Hample and Erik Jabs. The heat was on for most of the year, but I kept up my pace throughout and was able to hold off oncomers, only losing 3rd place for a week or so.
Goal #3-Snag 350 balls.
Following up a 400 ball season is tough, and I wasnt able to reach 350 either, ending at 343. The only excuse I have is that PNC had roughly 13 rained out bps, thats why I was only there 56 times.
Goal #4-Snag 3 game time home runs, Gem of the Diamonds.
During the season I was able to catch a Jayson Werth home run on the fly and track down an Andrew Mccutchen opposite field homer that landed on the PNC riverwalk and landed in the grass outside the stadium. The closest call to number three was in Texas, I was seated end of the row, 5 rows back next to the grass batters eye. JJ Hardy ripped a line shot, I was up and near the middle of the grass before any competition was out of their seat, but the ball just missed landing in the grass and went into the blackness of the gap. That close to meeting this goal.
Goal #5-Snag a ball at three new ballparks.
With two kids, a wedding planned for June, and not many vacation days to work with in my new full time job I had a hard time planning how to meet this goal. I knew there was no way I was getting to three new ones so I used the last four days I had all on the awesomeness of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. A+++ in my book, heat included. The architecture, atmosphere, friendliness of staff/fans, early gate time, ability to run onto the grass batters eye for home runs (I sat in the end seat 5 rows back without a ticket each of four games without even the hint of a question from an usher, try that at PNC) may be unrivaled. Seeing just this park for four games was WELL WORTH IT!!
Goal #6-Average 5 balls per game.
I ended up with 4.90 per game, I am fine with this as my average (career and year) has been steadily increasing year by year.
Goal #7-Remain Injury Free
Besides the usual array of bruises, bumps, cuts, and scrapes I only had one significant injury. Nothing like the one in 2010 where I had a softball sized egg on my right shin which I had to go to the hospital for. This one was where I slammed my knee into the corner of the LF wall at PNC. It made it tough to get around as the swelling slowed me down, but I managed and finished the season strong. It wasnt fully healed until mid October, and happened Sept 13th, good thing that happened late in the season.
Here are the best moments in picture and dialogue of 2011.
The season began on the road in Washington with Erik Jabs, we drove through a near blizzard of snow and arrived to lite overcast at the gate to begin the season.
My first ball of the year, well it was a pair of balls to begin the year, definitely sweet.
I took some pics of Nationals Park, the last time I was there I had no camera and used Eriks pics for my blog.
On the way into Washington with the REAL Washington Monument in the background.
A pic from the upper deck.
A pic of the entire field from above.
Cherry blossoms outside the gate with the National logo in the background.
And a picture of one of many mirrored baseballs hanging along the parking garage toward the CF gate.
So that was it for Washington, onto Cleveland moments and recaps.
Yes Indeed Cleveland, the home away from home. Great for the early entrance, easter eggs, huge rf to roam, heritage park, and the home run porch. Under two hours away Cleveland plays a major role in overall stats for the year.
And the site of where I would snag career ball 1000. It occurred outside the home run porch gates, nearly rolling out, handed over to me by the security guard at the gate, not very remarkable but a majr milestone indeed.
Here is the ball with my glove, a beer, and an italian sausage with the amazing mustard which is made in Cleveland.
One of the funniest moments for me was at an early Cleveland bp as I was standing outside the gates. Imagine a ball untouched, full velocity, shooting through the gate untouched around 2 o clock, your walking by and you see a guy with a glove take off sprinting after a baseball bouncing around in the streets toward the Quicken Loans arena. Cool moment.
Here is the site of action.
Nothing else too significant in Cleveland the 8 games I attended there, so now lets head to the BIG state of TEXAS, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Totally Amazing trip, it felt great to be in flight on the way there.
Here is a pic of the outside of the ballpark at home plate.
A close up pic with the Texas flag waving.
A look at the beautiful and fitting architecture along the right and left field sides of the ballpark.
Here is a broad look at the field from above.
The fans of Texas, who were all very friendly and laid back.
A pic of the grass batters eye. Did I mention that the ushers are laid back too, I was able to sit on the end seat five rows back each game. During those four games there was a total of 14 home runs, one of which just missed landing in the grass. I had a great jump on it, making it out to the center of the grass before any competition but fate would have the ball land in the gap.
Notice the sexy flag girls in the pic, well I had front row seats for that too, and they come out every time the Rangers score, which was alot, so I was able to have the treat of seeing them many times do their Texas flag run through the grass.
Here is a pic of a statue of one of the most dominant pitchers ever, most no hittaers, and leading man of the Rangers, Nolan Ryan, this is behing the center field batters eye.
On the 4th of July, this vendor was sweating it out in the Texas heat, and dressed for the heat and the occasion.
And my favorite pic of all, me with a bp caught homer from my favorite current player in MLB, Josh Hamilton. A man of true heroics and faith. When he hit the two run homer in game 6 I thought I could never be more certain of the outcome of the game and series being the Rangers winning it all, and Josh Hamilton having a very much deserved heroic home run to lead his team to the finish line, and to go from near death to hitting a World Series winning home run. I cant understand why this wasnt to be, I guess fate didnt play out the way I thought it should have, and the Cardinals, my third most hated team, took the trophy home. Anyway, I was ecstatic to have caught a CF bp blast home run clean off his bat.
So that was it for an amazing trip to Texas. Now the recap of PNC park. After attending two games in Nationals Park we had a nice sunny day for the home opener against the Rockies, my first ball of the year was snagged on the riverwalk outside of the stadium as it rolled down into the grass.
During this series I was able to get two toss ups from the sensational and very friendly Ubaldo Jimenez, giving me a total of three for him in career. Here he is after a side session.
Here I am after a good first week of the season at Nationals and PNC park in some cool Rockies gear.
Any ballhawk at PNC is happy when the Brewers come to town, you can almost bank on a double digit day every time they do due to the many homers hit by their powerful and plentiful right handed hitters. Here is a display of another good day with the Brewers in town.
And a pic of me in Brewers gear with a pretty cool ball, I have gotten many caught homers and other hit balls by Ryan Braun, but never a toss up, in my eyes Braun is a pretty cool player. Here I am with the ball and a nice Pittsburgh skyline.
This year the Astros were a mess, but their bullpen was laid back as I have ever seen, horsing around, goofing around, and totally chillaxed. Here is a pic of them.
They were pretty cool too, I ended up getting some toss ups from Wilton Lopez, and Nelson Figueroa. Also, autographs from Lopez, Figueroa, Mark Melancon, and Enerio Del Rosario. Rosario I asked for a dip of chew. Didnt come through on that but he got a good laugh out of it. Here he is signing a ball.
Here is Nelson Figueroa signed ball.
And the final product with the three signatures.
Here I am rockin the Astros gear with caught Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee homers, I love these guys in bp, I stand on the LF crosswalk above the bleachers for him and Lee and caught three from each of them this year. They are a great combo for a ballhawk.
A cool pic of my lil man Dominik with the Astros hat on with some balls hit by the Astros.
Ball number 800 caught clean off the bat of a bp monster by the name of Matt Stairs, the man who tries to hit a home run every time he steps to the plate.
Ball number 900 thrown to me by Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton.
A cool pic of glove, baseballs, ticket, and ticket during the Mets series taken on the Clemente Wall.
The Boston Red Sox were in town this year and with a huge crowd on a Friday I came very close to being shut out for the first time in a long long time. Near the end of bp though I was able to get a toss up from a star pitcher by the name of Josh Beckett in my Boston gear, which was the only ball at this game, but a definite gem.
The second game on Saturday against the Red Sox was pretty tough also, but I came away with a major web gem outside the CF gate before it opened, off the bat of Big Papi. Notice the crowd at the gate in the pic below, well Papi hit one that was a bullet of a homer right at the oblivious onlookers heads that just cleared the gate. I was aware of it the whole way in and lunged high above and to my left to make a sweet catch with a big applause from the crowd who had a strong idea that they may have been struck hard by the homer that they didnt see coming.
And here is the Big Papi web gem, along with another homer Papi hit that I scrummed.
This year I was able to snag three Colorado Rockies Salt River Fields commemorative baseballs, for their new spring training stadium. Here is what they look like.
The second commemorative ball I was able to snag, four total, was the Angels 50 year anniversary ball. When the Braves came to town they had just played the Angels, and they must have had a *&^%load of these balls as I got four, and every other ballhawk got at least one as well. Here is the sweet logo on those commemoratives.
And here I am showing them off after bp with a nice Pittsburgh skyline.
And here is a nice bloody scrape that I got scrumming one of them.
Another cool ball was Clevelands BP logo, I snagged a bunch of these in Cleveland. I believe you were able to trade these in for some gas perks or something but I didnt take the time to go and do it, and I wanted to keep them anyway.
Here are a some random and cool pics taken during the season.
One game when I got down to the riverwalk to play any early bp balls that left the park I encountered the overflowing Allegheny after some big rains. That killed any possible balls outside the park that day.
A PNC park old timer, long timer, and legendary Pirate fan named Irene, with all of her many knick knacks, trinkets, and good luck Pirate memorabilia that she puts out for each game at her seat underneath the Clemente wall behind the fence that covers the RF wall.
A close up pic of Kerry Wood as he signed a ball of mine.
And another pic of my lil man Dominik posing next to balls snagged at a Cleveland vs A’s game.
And the treacherous enemy of many PNC ballhawks, the blistering 5pm sun, which caused me to misplay at least 5 balls throughout the season, all of which are usually routine plays. You have to be so careful when the sun is like this to have your shades, have your glove blocking the ball, and hope that as the ball comes into you it doesnt cross through the sun. So even if you do all the right things you may come away with a bruise if you dont duck away when you lose it, or you just look like a bum, but if your an experienced PNC ballhawk you just know that its gonna happen to you at least a few times through the year.
Yea, catching a ball as it crosses through that is a task.
This year Zack Hample came to town on his way to seeing all 30 stadiums, we took a good pic with him and his watch with Zack clients at the gate.
During this bp with the Brewers at bat, Ryan Braun tossed a ball to Zack Hample that was too high for him to catch, the little guy named Maple in the green striped shirt was close to the ball, but it was much closer to me and I picked it up for the snag. With a clean toss up from Braun earlier in the season I had no problem with giving this one to Maple who was very happy to have it.
Another milestone was my 300th ball, breaking 300 for two years straight. This was tossed to me by the most anti ballhawk pitcher that roams the outfield during Pirates bp. He managed to laugh at us when balls hit the wall, went out of his way to catch balls that landed near the track, and brainwashed all the Pirates pitchers other then Ross Ohlendorf to not throw balls to us regular ballhawks. Joel Hanrahan, cocky, and ignorant at any request for a toss up. Well the number 300 ball he must have been on a really good date the night before cause he scanned the regular ballhawks extensively to decide who he would rarely toss a ball to. He asked how many each of us had, and at the time I had the most in three balls. I just told him hey, “I got 3 but the next one will be number 300 on the year and it would be cool to get it from an All Star closer.” He obliged and tossed it up, what a challenge and what luck I guess to get it from him after how he treated us, and passed this on to the other pitchers throughout the year. Here it is.
If you noticed the ball with number 300 on the year is a Gem of the Diamond, a game time home run. That was off the bat of Andrew Mccutchen, so that was a really good game for me. Lets take a look at the first Gem of the Diamond on the 2011 season, the one that was a moon shot off the bat of Jayson Werth, caught cleanly on the LF riverwalk toward the CF bullpen.
Here is the spot where I made the catch, where I am standing in the pic below.
Here is a pic of the games baseballs with the Jayson Werth Gem of the Diamond in the front.
Now back to the Andrew Mccutchen Gem of the Diamond. As I was standing in LF on the crosswalk Cutch ripped a homer that bounced hard off the PNC river walk in right center. At first I thought wow, here I am playing in LF for Cutch and he goes to the spot where I play lefties, figures. Well, my buddy Erik Jabs happened to be sitting in the upper level on the first base side. He called me and told me that the ball left the stadium. Off to the races it was, surprisingly PNC ballhawk Jim Saylor was out there searching through the weeds. He must have rushed straight to the weeds and went right past it as it sat in the grass.
I hurried up and took the pic before anyone may have noticed it. Upon further review of the video footage the ball did take a huge hop opposite to where Jim assumed it would be, in the weeds. Because of this I came down with a second Gem of the Diamond, from one of my favorite current players, Cutch himself.
Thank you again Erik for the heads up.
The final game of the year was against the Reds that I attended, and I went out with a bang, just missing double digits in my last game. I was lined up for a Brandon Phillips bomb on the LF crosswalk, certain it was on its way into my glove as I leaned against the rail to the handicap section. Right as I was ready to feel it pop into my glove and take me to double digits from a real cool player a woman sitting in the handicap seats popped up and snared it out of nowhere. She literally stood up at the last second and robbed it.
I was still glad to end the season on a 9 ball game, and plan on taking the momentum into the 2012 season. Here are the balls from that game.
And lastly, the great one, Roberto Clemente immortalized in statue. The site that I love to see as 5pm nears all throughout the season, and the site I will be excited to see as I await to enter the LF bleachers for another strong year of ballhawking in 2012.