April 2009

4/27/09 @ Miller Park

The Brewers were finally back in town after an 11-day absence.  I had made a spontaneous trip to Wrigley Field on April 21st because I was baseball starved. 
But, the BrewCrew were back and I was ready.

The day began when I met NYC ballhawk extraordinaire Zack Hample at the Milwaukee Amtrak train station.  Zack was coming in from Chicago and was going to be my guest for a night. 

After taking Zack on the not-so-scenic tour of Milwaukee, we headed to the ballpark.

There she is off in the distance from Interstate 94…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 005.jpgWhenever
I take this sight in, I feel a void.  I miss Milwaukee County Stadium. 
While Miller Park is nice, I miss the simplicity of the old park.  I
miss the GA bleacher sections. 
I miss rain delays.  I miss a 1/2 empty stadium on the weekend.
(Milwaukee County Stadium once stood just to the right of Miller Park from this view)

We were getting closer…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 014.jpg                                            The drive down into the valley.

Yeah, baby…1st ones in the parking lot…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 034.jpg
The walk up to Miller Park from the General Parking lot…

4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 032.jpg…took us here.
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 013.jpgZack and I stopped for a photo together…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 035.jpg            …we’ve known each other about 3 weeks and got along great from the start. 
We continued walking toward the stadium and paid homage to Hammerin’ Hank…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 070.jpgThat
brick inlay with the bronze plate (in the asphalt) signifies the
approximate spot where Hank Aaron’s last career home run (#755) landed
back on July 20, 1976.  The ball was hit off Dick Drago down the left
field line at Milwaukee County Stadium, landing in the lower grandstand
seating area.  After County Stadium was demolished, this tribute was
put in place years later.

A little league field called “Helfaer
Field” (shown above) was constructed on the old site of County
Stadium.  In the photo, the view looks toward home plate.  The home
plate of the little league field is in the approximate spot where home
plate was at Milwaukee County Stadium.

A closer look at the historical marker…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 069.jpg                                     …forever the home run king in Milwaukee.

After saying hello to “Rockin’ Robin…
yount statue.JPG                                                We entered the stadium.

The 1st thing I noticed was a potential glove trick opportunity in the left field moat.
So, naturally, I went to work on it.

Lower the glove…
Glove trick 42709.JPGA little lower…
Happy using glove trick 42709.JPGGot it…
happy glove trick!!42709.JPGSteady, steady…
Happy glove trick 42709!!.JPG                                                             Yeah!
                                                      BASEBALL #1.

BASEBALL #2 came via a toss-up from Brewers relief pitcher JORGE JULIO.

I decided to give Zack a little space on the lower patio.  So, I headed out to the upper patio.
Not long after I arrived, Brewers CF MIKE CAMERON hit a bomb that I gloved on the fly for BASEBALL #3.

Brewers pitcher MARK DIFELICE tossed me BASEBALL #4 about 3 minutes later. 
When I looked at the ball, I discovered it had some character to it. 

See for yourself…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 060.jpg                                                             So true!!

I went back down to the lower patio because I couldn’t stand still.  While I was down there, Pirates Pitcher ZACH DUKE was doing some early wind sprints on the warning track.  A ball came to him, I asked for it and soon had BASEBALL #5.
The Brewers were almost done hitting when Bill Hall cranked back to back shots into the left field bleachers.  I ran where I wasn’t supposed to be and claimed BASEBALL #6 & BASEBALL #7 both on the bounce. 

Sometimes, you have to bend the rules.

The Pirates were now on the field taking BP.  I had moved to right field for Adam LaRoche bombs.  I spotted Pirates relief pitcher EVAN MEEK shagging some BP directly in front of me.  I called out his full name and he turned and fired BASEBALL #8 right to me.  I think he was just happy someone knew his name without simply reading the back of his jersey.  The fact that I was decked out in Pirates gear certainly did not hurt, either.

A few minutes later, BASEBALL #9 came courtesy of Pirates pitcher PAUL MAHOLM.  I gave it directly to a kid that was standing next to me.

BASEBALL #10 was crushed by ADAM LAROCHE that I snagged on the bounce up in the right field loge bleachers.

Pirates pitcher SEAN BURNETT (very willing to toss baseballs into the stands) soon fired me BASEBALL #11 when asked to do so.

I was rolling…and not finished.

Baseball #11 had just tied my personal 1 day snagging record.  I’d snagged 11 in one game a handful of times, but could never get that elusive #12…until today.

My personal best came courtesy of Pirates pitcher PAUL MAHOLM.  Yeah, that’s right…a 2nd time!  Turns out he had seen me give the young fella #9 a few minutes earlier and decided I should have one of my own. 

I moved over to right center field because I had gotten toss-up baseballs from most of the players standing in right field.

Pirates reliever ROSS OHLENDORF tossed me BASEBALL #13 about 5 minutes after my arrival.  He was a really cool guy.  Very friendly and extremely willing to give some souvenirs.

It was about 6:10 and I already had 13 baseballs.  There was still 15 minutes left to BP!
Before the day had started, I made it my personal goal to break Zac
k Hample’s single-day Milwaukee record of 17.  I told him I couldn’t have a New Yorker holding a Milwaukee record.  All in good fun, of course.

I was well on my way until the Pirates flat out stopped hitting the ball with any authority.

BP ended and I was still stuck on 13 baseballs.

Thirty minutes before game time, I decided to go down to the Pirates dugout.  When I arrived, I met up with Zack and another Milwaukee ballhawk named Shawn.  Shawn has what it takes to be a good ballhawk.  He’s a charter member of our BALLHAWK LEAGUE and has his own blog.  Check it out here.

While we were sitting above the Bucs dugout, we made the Pittsburgh telecast…
Happy Shawn & Zack on Pittsburgh TV.JPG                                 From left to right:  Happy, Shawn and Zack.

            (Special thanks to ERIK JABS for taking this screen shot and sending it to me)

It was now gametime and I was still in that 3rd row seat above the Pirates dugout. 
I figured what the hell?  Might as well stay.  So, I did…for the entire game!

Before the start of the bottom of the 6th, Pirates 1B coach PERRY HILL tossed me BASEBALL #14.

It was a beauty. 
Take a look…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 065.jpgand the other side…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 066.jpg…absolutely hammered with use!!
This ball was the infield warmup ball used before the start of the home half of the 6th inning.

In the bottom of the 7th inning, Brewers SS J.J. Hardy struck out swinging for the final out.  Pirates catcher and Wisconsin native JASON JARAMILLO jogged toward the dugout.  I went down to the front row and held up my glove.  Jason underhanded it to me for BASEBALL #15.

Here’s a look at the 3rd out ball…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 061.jpg…gorgeous!!

I ended my day with a new personal best of 15 baseballs snagged.  While 18 was my goal, I was thrilled to crack double digits for the 4th time on this young season. 
Zack’s Milwaukee record lives to see another day.

After the game, we took another group shot…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 048.jpgLeft to right:  Zack Hample, The Happy Youngster, Ballhawk Shawn and Brewer Ben.

Of the 15 balls I snagged, 8 of them had something goofy written on the sweetspot.
Take a look…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 059.jpg                           …funny stuff.  My personal favorite-YOU’RE MARRIED? 
                                                      Boys will be boys.

Finally, a new personal record…
4_27_09 Pirates vs Brewers @ Miller Park 068.jpg       The picture shows 14 baseballs (1 was given away).  But, you get the point, eh?

SPECIAL THANKS TO ZACK HAMPLE FOR PROVIDING ME A FEW PHOTOS FOR THIS BLOG ENTRY.

2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 15 total balls 4/27/09

4 batted balls (1 caught on fly)

10 toss-ups

1 device

ATTENDANCE:  32,198

2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS

4/7/09   = 5   baseballs
4/8/09   = 10 baseballs
4/9/09   = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3   baseballs
4/11/09 = 5   baseballs
4/12/09 = 5   baseballs
4/13/09 = 11 baseballs
4/14/09 = 6   baseballs
4/21/09 = 5   baseballs
4/27/09 = 15 baseballs
___________________

75 baseballs (10 games)
7.5 average per game

4/21/09 @ Wrigley Field

Since the Brewers had been on the road all week, I was
baseball-starved and in desperate need of some ballhawking action. 
After gaining the blessing of my lovely and understanding wife, I found
myself on a train to Chicago at 1pm.

After a 1 1/2 hr. train ride, I was in downtown Chicago.  I hoofed it
about 9 blocks to the RedLine subway and jumped on another train that
dropped me off at the front door step of Wrigley Field.

Here was my view as I popped out of the ADDISON ST. station…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 001.jpgThis is the southeast corner of the stadium at the intersection of SHEFFIELD AVE. and ADDISON ST.

Here’s a look down SHEFFIELD AVE…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 002.jpgThe centerfield scoreboard at Wrigley is purely nostalgic.  New stadiums are great, but Wrigley has that old-school flair.  See the flags?  The wind was blowing hard to the right field corner.   
I walked another 50 feet and peered through an open chain link fence.
Here’s what I saw…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 003.jpg            A rain soaked field with a rain jacket on.  There would be no BP on this day.

So, I wandered around the ballpark and took a few photos.

Here’s a famous intersection…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 004.jpg                                                   WAVELAND/KENMORE

Here’s a view of the left field bleachers standing underneath the above intersection sign…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 005.jpgThe guy in the blue coat is walking underneath that overhang for a reason…rain, rain go away!

My walk continued past the players parking lot (3B side) and back behind home plate where I purchased my ticket.  I went up to the window and asked for the cheapest ticket available.  He told me it would be in the Terrace Reserved-Section 233/Row 16/Seat 12. 
$24, please.  Okay, whatever.  Just get me in the stadium.

The lines were starting to lengthen.  I’m thinking…wow, 30 degrees and rainy and these fans still line up to see their team.

Until I found out it was a giveaway day.  I’m certain the freebie brought many out early as the Cubs were only handing out one to the first 10,000 through the gates.

What were they giving away?

This worthless thing…
zambrano statue giveaway.JPG

I’m sure it has some value.  I decided to keep it because I’m a bit of a pack rat.

My walk around the ballpark came to a halt when I spotted this fella…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 006.jpg                                                      Zack Hample.

I had met Zack for the 1st time a few weeks back when we were both in Toronto.
I had read on his blog that he had planned on being in Chicago this week.
Zack’s one cool dude.

The gates to the BPless Wrigley Field opened two hours early.  I grabbed my Zambrano statue and headed into the seating area. 

Upon entering, this was the scene…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 008.jpg              I’m not a fan of rain.  Especially when it takes the place of Batting Practice.
 

After a few minutes, the Reds pitchers started coming out onto the field…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 007.jpgBASEBALL #1 came fro
m an unknown Reds pitcher.  I wanna say it was MIKE LINCOLN.  Not positive.  It was his warmup ball.

BASEBALL #2 came about 30 seconds later from EDINSON VOLQUEZ.  He was walking back toward the dugout and launched it 30 rows back right to where I was standing.  Of course, wearing all Reds gear and waving my arms like I’m trying to put out a fire didn’t hurt.

The players had all retreated to the clubhouse.  I had some time to burn, so, I wandered.

Look at that beautiful runway on the lower level to snag foul balls…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 009.jpgOld-school charm…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 010.jpgLeft field bleachers…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 012.jpgRight field bleachers…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 013.jpgPre-game view from the seat I was SUPPOSED to be sitting in (more on this later)…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 014.jpg                                          SECTION 233 ROW 16 SEAT 12

I wandered some more-ending up in the upper deck.  I had to show my ticket about 50 times to get up there!  The ushers at Wrigley are Nazis.  Just doing their jobs, I guess.

A view of centerfield from the upper deck…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 017.jpgA view to the right from the upper deck…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 018.jpgand a view to the left…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 019.jpgSee that overhang??  A ton of baseballs get fouled off and bounce onto that roof.  Their final landing spots are the surrounding streets below.  Now, that’s old-school.

A look onto Waveland Ave. from the furthest seat from home plate…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 022.jpgRooftop seats in left field…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 026.jpg
The seagulls in Chicago are on a timer.  They swoop in every day around 5-6pm.  They’re used to day game buffets.  They were a tad early on this day…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 028.jpgThe only thing more annoying than seeing seagulls everywhere is seeing Cubs fans everywhere.

Uh-oh!!  Game time!!
Get that oversized slip n’ slide off the field…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 030.jpgnicely done…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 032.jpgLet’s play ball!!

Right before the game was about to begin, I took a look where I was SUPPOSED to be sitting.  It was way up and underneath the overhang.  There was no way I was going to sit there for the game.  So, I did what any ballhawk would do.  I looked down to the dugout seats above the Reds dugout and saw a few empties.  So, when the Gestapo wasn’t looking, I snuck down and assumed an empty seat in the 2nd row directly above the Reds dugout.  Decked out in all Reds gear, I was definitely in enemy territory.  Only a few Reds fans to my left.  I struck up conversations with everyone around me and acted like I’d been there before.

Reds infielder ALEX GONZALEZ was warming up with Brandon Phillips directly in front of me.  After he was finished throwing, I asked for the baseball.  Alex looked at me and faked like he was going to throw it 90 mph at my head.  He pulled it back, smiled and then gently tossed it to me for BASEBALL #3.

Here was my view to start the game…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 037.jpgNot too shabby (I think this was the only time I blinked in 3 hours). 

More pics…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 038.jpg     Derrek Lee…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 045.jpg

1st inning…2nd inning…3rd inning…4th inning…5th inning all go by.  I’m still sitting in the 2nd row!  I think the late Harry Caray said it best, “holy cow!” 

In the bottom of the 6th inning, Cubs LF ALFONSO SORIANO was at the plate.  He hit a nubber down the 1st base line.  It rolled right up to 1st base, struck the base, then rolled into shallow right field.  Jay Bruce picked it up and fired it into second where Soriano slid safely for a double. 

The ball was thrown out of play to this man…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 051.jpgCubs 1B coach MATT SINATRO.  Mr. Sinatro looked in my direction.  I was the only fan who stood up AND had a baseball glove on.  He made eye contact with me and tossed the game ball to me for BASEBALL #4.  A toss-up for official statistics, but a gamer hit nonetheless.

Here’s the Soriano game used hit ball…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 058.jpg                                     ALFONSO SORIANO CAREER HIT #1406

After the bottom half of the seventh had ended, Reds 1B Coach BILLY HATCHER tossed BASEBALL #5 to me on top of the dugout. 

I had been trying to get a 3rd out ball all game but for whatever reason, Reds 1B Joey Votto would not look to the crowd.  He would simply jog off the field and on his way to the dugout, he would toss the 3rd out ball to Billy Hatcher.  Billy would then toss him a different one.  I’ve noticed this becoming a trend.  From what I gather, the players are using the previous innings game ball for the infield warmup ball between innings.

Upon further inspection of the Billy Hatcher toss-up, I could see it was a game ball but it had too many grass and dirt stains to be the 3rd out of that inning.  It had been the previous innings 3rd out used for infield practice.  Ahah!!

Here’s a look at the Billy Hatcher toss-up ball…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 059.jpgThe ball was certainly “rubbed” for game action.  This particular ball just saw some extra action in between innings.

After getting that 5th baseball, I reached into my backpack and dug out the Mike Lincoln toss-up and handed it to a very friendly Cubs fan who actually HAD tickets in those seats.  I felt almost obligated to do that because I had sat in those seats all game without a ticket there.  Unbeknownst to anyone around me, of course.

Here’s me in the 9th inning…
4_21_09 Reds vs Cubs @ WRIGLEY FIELD 052.jpgStill sitting in the 2nd row on the dugout with a $24 ticket.  Yeah, I beat the system.

Finals for the day…
                             5 toss-up baseballs (4 shown-1 given away)
                                                           +
                                1 Carlos Zambrano bathroom ornament

2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 5 total balls 4/21/09

5 toss-ups

ATTENDANCE:  38,403

2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS

4/7/09   = 5   baseballs
4/8/09   = 10 baseballs
4/9/09   = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3   baseballs
4/11/09 = 5   baseballs
4/12/09 = 5   baseballs
4/13/09 = 11 baseballs
4/14/09 = 6   baseballs
4/21/09 = 5   baseballs
___________________

60 baseballs (9 games)
6.667 average per game

Work sucks…I know. Here’s a silver lining.

So, it’s Jackie Robinson Day (April 15th) league-wide.  All teams are showing their support by wearing #42 jerseys in honor of Jackie’s retired #42.

I go to work that day like any other day.  Three tickets to the Brewers vs. Reds game later that night are waiting for me on my kitchen table when I finish work. 

Around 11am, my employer sends me on a special assignment (due to the nature of my employment, I can’t provide details).

This assignment was to take me into the afternoon before I could go home and get ready for the game.  Fine.  I have no choice.

1pm rolls around…2pm…3pm…4pm…now I’m pissed.  I’m about to miss Batting Practice. 

To make a long story short, I didn’t get relieved from my assignment until 930 pm.  I had not only missed BP, I had missed nearly the entire game.  Work sucks.

So, I walked out to my truck and got in.  I turn the radio to the Brewers game.  I’m cussing to myself.  The first thing I here is Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks is at the plate.  Soon, Bob Uecker gets excited because Weeks just hit a home run to the opposite field and near the visitor’s bullpen (near where my seats are located).  I cuss out loud-thinking…great, not only do I miss BP, I miss the freakin’ game AND I miss a home run opportunity right to my seats.  I’m ticked.

Until I get home.

When I get home, my house is empty.  No wife, no kids.  Hmm.  I look to the table where I had laid out my Brewers tickets and they’re gone!!  Did my wife go to the game with the kids??  Did she take it upon herself to avoid letting them go to waste??

At that moment, my cell phone rings.  It’s my wife.  She sounds excited.  She tells me she took the kids to the game so the tickets wouldn’t go to waste. 
Cool woman.  I’m very impressed.

She goes on to say how Rickie Weeks hit a home run near our section and that our 3yr. old daughter got the home run ball!!  WTF!?!?!

It turns out, the ball went into the Reds bullpen.  My daughter ran over and asked for the baseball.  Reds relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes tossed it to my wife who was holding our 2 month old son with our 3yr old daughter standing nearby. 

It gets better.

It turns out that the Brewers/Rickie Weeks wanted that home run ball back.  They wouldn’t tell my wife why they wanted it back (we’re assuming because it was Jackie Robinson Day).  They offered her a signed Trevor Hoffman baseball in return for the Rickie Weeks game home run ball.

?? 

She asked herself, “what would my husband do?” 
He would say, “hell no!”

So, she kept the ball.  Sorry Rickie…the Brewers staff should have tried harder.  A signed baseball for a game home run ball?  Someone’s on drugs.

BTW, when my 3yr old found out the Brewers wanted the ball she began to cry, stating, “why do the Brewers wanna take my ball?”  As tears rolled down her face. 
Poor kid.  You keep that ball…that’s your 1st career home run ball.  Way to go kid. 
Like father, like daughter.

Kudos to my wife for everything-plain and simple.  She rules.

The future ballhawk star with her 1st career game home run ball…
4_15_09 Reds vs Brewers 018.jpg                                  Damn, she looks tired.  Well worth it kid!!

A closer look at the prize…
4_15_09 Reds vs Brewers.jpgRickie’s black bat left a nice little black paint transfer mark on the ball where he made contact.

I guess missing the game wasn’t so bad after all!

 

4/14/09 @ Miller Park

I’m getting a little behind on my blogging, so, this one will be short and sweet.

My wife and I went to the game together.  She’s my good luck charm.

When
the gates to the stadium opened at 530pm for the 705pm game, I raced in
and scoped out the Brewers bullpen.  There were about 6 baseballs lying
in the bullpen.  Three of them looked like potential glove trick
claims, so, I went to work. 

There was one problem, though. 
My string on the glove trick had balled up into a knot.  I was getting
a bit nervous trying to untangle the mess.  After about 3 minutes of
screwing around, I had it pretty much untangled. 

So, I went back to work.

BASEBALL #1, BASEBALL #2 and BASEBALL #3
were all, subsequently, snagged using the glove trick.  I was able to
reel all three up in about 5 minutes.  Would have been shorter if not
for the knot.  Not for the knot??  Whatever.  Either way, I felt like I
was cheating, but, not really.  You know what I mean? 

Anyhow,
I ran over to my section and began waiting for the big Reds lefties to
start cranking them out like they had the night before. 

Reds
OF LAYNCE NIX was shagging BP out in right field.  A baseball rolled
out to him and I asked him for it.  He turned and lobbed BASEBALL #4 to me.

The
first group of Reds lefty hitters soon disappointed, though.  So, I
headed over to left for Brandon Phillips.  It took about 5 minutes
before BRANDON PHILLIPS jacked one high into the air.  I was standing
in the left field loge bleachers (one of the toughest places to catch a
baseball when you have to move to get it). 

Row after row of bleachers along with scattered railings makes this place tough. 

I
hurdled three rows of bleachers moving backwards, all the while, keeping my eye
on the ball.  It was coming, I just had to get underneath it.  I would
snag that BP homer on the fly for
BASEBALL #5.

The
righty group also would disappoint, so, I moved back to right field for
Laynce Nix.  Laynce has big power and usually shows it during BP. 

Near
the end of Batting Practice, LAYNCE NIX would strike.  He hit a long,
towering fly that found a safe home right in the old mitt (on the fly)
for BASEBALL #6.

BP was over but I would soon make two new friends. 

Earlier
in the day, I had run into a gentleman at a local Milwaukee restaurant
about 20 minutes from the park.  He had told me his youngest boy was
having a birthday on this day.  The man said they had driven down from
their home in Northeast Wisconsin to take the boy and his older brother
to the Brewers game.  I told the man to meet me out by the big CITGO
pump in right-center field, that I would have something for his boys.

They stopped by the seats right when BP was finishing up.

Here’s the two boys proudly displaying their prize(s)…
4_14_09 Reds vs Brewers 001.jpgThat’s JOHN on the right and the birthday boy RYAN on the left.  Two great kids!!

After
BP, I made my usual rounds around the stadium.  When I saw Reds pitcher
Bronson Arroyo walking out to the bullpen to warm up, I headed over to
watch.

Here’s my overhead view of Bronson Arroyo making his warmup pitches…
4_14_09 Reds vs Brewers 002.jpg
4_14_09 Reds vs Brewers 003.jpgThe game contained nothing to write home to Mom about. 
When
the game starts, I usually stay in my spot.  If I’m out running around
for foul balls, I miss the game home runs.  Since, game home runs mean
everything to me, I stay focused on those instead of foul balls, 3rd
out balls, etc.  That doesn’t mean I don’t go for them from time to
time, it’s just that it’s pretty rare.

I had my throwback ball waiting for a game home run but the game home run never came.
Here’s a picture of my throwback ball…
4_14_09 Reds vs Brewers 006.jpgIf your stadium allows throwbacks, you have to have one.  I made the infield at Miller Park on a bounce, once, from my bleacher seats out in right center field.

Only a complete fool would throw back the actual game home run ball…only my opinion, of course.

Here’s a picture of a ballhawk’s best friend (on occasion)…
4_14_09 Reds vs Brewers 009.jpg                                     A little pick-me-up goes a long way.

At the end of the game, I was in position for an ump game ball.  Home plate umpire Chuck Meriweather walked off the field.  I was in the front row calling out his name.  He turned and looked at me and just walked off the field.  Oh well…I’ll try again.

When Francisco Cordero was walking off the field, he rolled a baseball on top of the dugout to me.  Too bad his aim and his tact was way off.  A guy about 5 feet to my right intercepted it.

I did manage to snag a bag of sunflower seeds from the Reds batboy…
Thumbnail image for 4_14_09 Reds vs Brewers 010.jpgI asked for pumpkin seeds.  Apparently, they didn’t have any, so, he tossed me the sunflower seeds instead.  Thanks dude.

Final haul for the day…
4_14_09 Reds vs Brewers 011.jpg6 Baseballs (4 are shown/2 were given away) and 1 bag of sunflower seeds.  Do the seeds count for anything…?? 

I didn’t think so.

2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 6 total balls 4/14/09

2 caught on fly (hit)

1 toss-up

3 device

ATTENDANCE:  27,441

2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS

4/7/09   = 5   baseballs
4/8/09   = 10 baseballs
4/9/09   = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3   baseballs
4/11/09 = 5   baseballs
4/12/09 = 5   baseballs
4/13/09 = 11 baseballs
4/14/09 = 6   baseballs
___________________

55 baseballs (8 games)
6.875 average per game

4/13/09 @ Miller Park

As my wife and I walked up to the stadium, I spotted this…
4_13_09 Reds vs Brewers 001.jpg                                                just lying on the ground. 

So, I bent down, picked it up and placed it into my left front pocket.

I’m a bit superstitious.

When we were allowed to enter Miller Park, I found the Brewers still on the field for BP.  I spotted Brewers relief pitcher JORGE JULIO shagging baseballs out near the left field warning track.  I asked him for a baseball and he tossed one up for a quick BASEBALL #1.

I ran over to take a peek into the Brewers bullpen for any glove trick opportunities.  When I arrived, I spotted one.  I pulled the necessary equipment out of my bag and pulled it up for BASEBALL #2

Now you see it…
4_13_09 Reds vs Brewers 002.jpgNow you don’t…
4_13_09 Reds vs Brewers 006.jpg4_13_09 Reds vs Brewers 003.jpg                            That’s me in action with my wife as the photographer. 

After using the glove trick, I ran up to the loge bleachers (200 level) to shag a few.  When I arrived, I started combing through the bleachers in hopes of finding an overlooked easter egg.  There were about 15 people in the bleachers at this point.  I knew the odds were slim but I had to give it a shot.  After looking for about a minute or so…I had spotted one!  It was on the very bottom row of loge bleachers and I did not see it until I had walked about 50 feet away from it.  The angle was just right that it had been overlooked.  I moved toward the unclaimed baseball with a brisk walk.  I didn’t want to give it away to anyone (a few guys were doing the same easter egg hunt as I was).  When I was about 10 feet from it, I sprinted over and claimed it for BASEBALL #3
I love finding easter eggs.

Brewers pitcher MITCH STETTER was shagging baseballs in left field.  I yelled down to him for a baseball and he lobbed one up to me for BASEBALL #4.

Four quick ones and the Reds hadn’t even taken the field, yet.

When the Redlegs did finally start to hit the field, I moved over to right because I knew the big lefty sluggers would be starting things off.

I must admit, Batting Practice is not as fun without Adam Dunn on the Reds, but young sluggers JOEY VOTTO and JAY BRUCE both did their part to make up for his absence.  It didn’t take Jay Bruce long to hit one out.  When he did, I ran over and caught it on the fly for BASEBALL #5.  Hitting in the same group was the aforementioned stud Joey Votto. Joey cranked one out in my direction, too.  In the same fashion, I gloved his BP homer on the fly, too!  That was BASEBALL #6.

I was cruising right along.

I looked down to the field and Reds pitcher AARON HARANG was shagging some BP right below my seats in right-center field.

You can’t really tell by the picture…
4_13_09 Reds vs Brewers 008.jpg                                but, take my word for it…that’s Aaron Harang.

So, I politely called down to him.  I asked him if he would be willing to sign a baseball for me.  He made a “toss-it-down” motion with his glove.  So, toss-it-down I did.

Here’s a picture of Aaron Harang signing one of my game balls…
4_13_09 Reds vs Brewers 007.jpg

                                        Cool dude-that Aaron Harang.

Here’s the finished product…
4_13_09 Reds vs Brewers 012.jpg                           He really took his time, which is rare nowadays.

Autograph obtained…resume ballhawking.

Reds pitcher JARED BURTON was standing out in right-center field shagging some BP.  When he fielded one close to the warning track, I told him that if he left it on the track that I could pick it up.  He asked me if I had go-go gadget arms.  I said, “not exactly, but close to it!”  He took the baseball he had in his hand and tossed it up to me for BASEBALL # 7.  I was a little surprised that he even tossed it, but what the heck…I’ll take it.  I thanked him for the toss-up and then I told him I wasn’t kidding about picking i
t off the warning track.  He said, “next one.”

A minute later, another ball was hit out toward him.  He fielded it and lobbed it back toward the wall where I was standing above.  I had the glove trick ready to go.  He walked back toward it and kicked it closer to the wall below.  I lowered my glove down and picked it off the track for BASEBALL #8.  I thanked him for the opportunity and for being cool.  Cool dude. 

That concluded the BP portion of my day.

Before the start of the 5th inning, Brewers CF MIKE CAMERON was warming up with Brewers LF RYAN BRAUN.  When Cameron was finished warming up, I let go one of my famous whistles.  He turned, took two steps toward me and let it fly from shallow centerfield.  The throw was going to be low so I had to lean way out over the small railing and make the catch.  Of course, I made the catch…for BASEBALL #9 on the day.

When the 9th inning began, I scampered down to the box seats near the Reds dugout.  I wanted to get my 1st ump game ball of the regular season.  It worked in Spring Training for me a bunch of times, but that was exhibition.  I wanted to do it when things counted.  So, after the last out was recorded, I was in place.  I ran down to the front row and called out to home plate umpire MIKE REILLY.  He turned in my direction and reached into his ball pouch.  He grabbed one and fired a strike to my waiting glove for BASEBALL #10

I was glad to get that 1st ump game ball out of the way on this young season.

About 20 seconds later, the players and coaches were exiting the field.  I scanned everyone’s mitts and hands.  I spotted Reds 1B Coach BILLY HATCHER walking off the field.  Billy had a ball in his hands and you could see he was scanning the crowd for a fan in Reds gear.  I was decked out in my Griffey, Jr. #3 Reds jersey and cap.  I yelled out “Billy, Billy Hatcher” and held up my glove.  It was too easy…we made eye contact and he tossed me BASEBALL #11 on the day.

That concluded a pretty good day of hawking at the yard…
4_13_09 Reds vs Brewers.jpg11 baseballs (10 are shown-1 was given away)  Ump ball bottom middle/Coach Hatcher toss-up bottom right.  I do not # mark game balls.

2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 11 total balls 4/13/09

2 caught on fly (hit)

1 easter egg (hit)

6 toss-ups

2 device

ATTENDANCE:  25,016

2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS

4/7/09   = 5   baseballs
4/8/09   = 10 baseballs
4/9/09   = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3   baseballs
4/11/09 = 5   baseballs
4/12/09 = 5   baseballs
4/13/09 = 11 baseballs
___________________

49 baseballs (7 games)
7.0 average per game

4/12/09 @ Miller Park

This game was to be televised on ESPN as the Sunday night game of the week.

I hurried to the ballpark for Batting Practice.  Before I entered the stadium, I left my extra ticket at the will call window for a fellow Milwaukee ballhawk named Mike.  I affectionately refer to him as “Big Mike.” 

“Big Mike” has been ballhawking the Milwaukee scene since 1987-the year he snagged his first career in-game home run baseball.  Mike’s not as nimble as he once was, but, I believe he has 26 career game home runs snagged.  Not too shabby.

Here was my line entering the stadium…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 001.jpgThis gate is somewhat of an unknown.  A well kept secret, if you will.  It’s located on the  back-side of the stadium.  It’s called the Party Patio.  It’s an actual ticketed entrance all season long.  If you’re in a hurry to get in like I am, use this entrance and save yourself some valuable BP time.

I got BP off with a bang by using the glove trick in the visitor’s bullpen for BASEBALL #1.

The Cubs first group of hitters weren’t doing much and I was getting antsy in the pantsy.  The 2nd group took their cuts including Cubs LF Alfonso Soriano.  Based on past experience, I knew exactly where Soriano would hit them.  Boy, was I right.

I established my spot and waited…it only took 1 minute before ALFONSO SORIANO jacked one that I snagged on the bounce for BASEBALL #2
Rarely, do players jack back-to-back home runs in BP to the same spot.  But, it happened this day.  As I was running up to claim #2, BASEBALL #3 landed 15 feet from me.  I think I was a little off my game but it may have been Soriano just being a stud.  I grabbed that one on the bounce, too.
Five minutes later, ALFONSO SORIANO was at it again.  Another swing of the bat and the ball was coming.  I camped underneath it and caught it on the fly for BASEBALL #4.  Before Mr. Soriano was finished, I managed to catch BASEBALL #5 on the fly in the same fashion in nearly the same location.  I always say, “it pays to do your homework.” 

The remaining Cubs hitters decided they didn’t want to donate anymore baseballs to the cause.  BP was over.

After BP, a gentleman approached me and asked me if I would be willing to sell one of my baseballs.  I asked him if he had any kids.  He said he had a son celebrating a birthday today.  I told him that if he brought his son over, he could have a baseball for free.  He told me he would return.

About 10 minutes later, the man returned with his teenage son and a younger boy.  I picked out one of the nicer baseballs I had snagged that day and handed it over to the boy.  I wished him a happy birthday and took the following picture…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 002.jpgBirthday Boy Braeden celebrating his 8th birthday at the ballpark with his older brother and father.  I love seeing families spending quality time together at the yard. 

I met up with “Big Mike” and we headed to the concessions stand for a little pre-game meal.  Since I had provided the ticket, Mike was providing the food.  I ordered the chorizo…a new phenomenon at Miller Park.

Here’s Mike at the concessions stand.  If you come to Miller Park and run into this guy, you have to stop and say hi.  Tell him you know The Happy Youngster! 
He’s a riot…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 003.jpgLook at these freakin’ prices…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 004.jpg

                                   It’s no wonder Jeff Suppan makes 12MM a year.

I wandered up to the 400 level to take a few pictures.
Here’s a view of the field from the 400 level of the Terrace Reserved seats…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 007.jpgI usually sit just to the right field side of the hitter’s eye.  Provides me some home run ball opportunities from time to time.

On the way to my seats, these guys were walking in front of me…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 008.jpg                                        Now, that’s some funny stuff.

A random view down into the lower level (100 level) of right field bleachers…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 009.jpgA huge overhang prevents many of the home runs from landing here.  The ones that do make it on the lower level are liners and squeakers in the first 7 rows.

Here’s a picture of Ballhawk Shawn…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 011.jpg        Shawn is a charter member of our BALLHAWK LEAGUE and a great baseball fan here in Milwaukee.  Stop by Shawn’s blog if you get the chance-he knows baseball.

It was now game time so I settled into my seat.

In the 4th inning, Brewers RF Corey Hart stepped to the plate. 
You may recall on Friday the 10th of April (Brewers home opener), Corey Hart hit a home run 15 feet over my head that landed on a set of stairs.

Well, Corey Hart did it again.  This time, he hit it about 5 feet over my head. 

The scoop:
I’m sitting in the front row and it’s coming my way (opposite-field).  I know it’s hit hard so I run up the first set of stairs.  I turn around to find the ball.  When I locate it in the air, I realize it’s still going to be over my head, so, I run up another small set of stairs.  By the time it lands, I’m 5 feet away from it.  Too many stairs to climb in too little time.  It takes an awkward bounce off a guy’s arm and falls to the concourse below (about a 7-10 foot drop).  I’m about to jump over the railing and claim it when two guys just so happened to be walking by and see it bounce around in a small nook.  One of the passers-by picks it up effortlessly and takes off running.   Dammit!!  I pull myself back on the right side of the railing…commence kicking self in rear.  That’s the second time in three days Corey Hart hit in to my section and over my head. 
I’ve played that home run over in my head about 50 times.  I’ve asked myself tons of questions…
 

  • What could I have done differently?
  • Why did I not catch that?
  • Why did the guy in the hat not catch it?
  • Why does Miller Park have so many obstacles?
  • Will I ever be the same?
  • Am I crazy?

I’m convinced that narrowly missing game home runs makes you a better ballhawk over time.  You learn from little mistakes, little hesitations, etc.  I play it over in my head as if I get a “do-over” or something.  Maybe the next time I’ll do it better.  Oh well.

Here’s a picture of where the Corey Hart homer would have landed…if not for the guy in the hat and green coat.  I was about 5 feet away when he stuck his arm out to try to catch it…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 012.jpgThere’s a lot of “what-ifs” here.  If he hadn’t stuck his arm out I would have most likely snagged it on the 1st bounce.  Oh well, I’ll get it next time.

Moving on.

It was Easter Sunday, so this picture taken from near my seat is appropriate…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 015.jpg                                         Look closely…see the easter egg? 

Zoom, shall we…?
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 014.jpg

          There it is.  Almost looks like it has a larger commemorative logo on it…hmm.

In the top of the 9th inning, I relocated to the 6th row by the Cubs dugout for an ump ball.
Meanwhile, I took the following pics from my new seat…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 016.jpg
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 018.jpg

See the guy seated on the left side of the photo on the aisle wearing the gray hooded sweatshirt? 

This guy…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 019.jpgThat’s former DUKE University basketball standout J.J. REDICK.  It turns out, the Orlando Magic were in town to play the Milwaukee Bucks the following night.  He and a few of his Magic teammates (including Jameer Nelson and Marcin Gortat) were taking in the Brewers game from the best seats in the house.

I always keep a game ball in my bag for these exact situations. 

After home plate umpire Angel Hernandez dissed me and the game had ended, I politely asked Mr. Redick to sign the ball pictured below…
4_12_09 Cubs vs Brewers 023.jpg     His pro career hasn’t amounted to much, but, collegiately-he was one of the best.

Finals for the day…
5 baseballs (3 are shown – one given to birthday boy/1 given to usher in my section)




2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 5 total balls 4/12/09

2 caught on fly (hit)

2 snagged on bounce (hit)

1 device

ATTENDANCE:  40,168

2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS

4/7/09   = 5   baseballs
4/8/09   = 10 baseballs
4/9/09   = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3   baseballs
4/11/09 = 5   baseballs
4/12/09 = 5   baseballs

___________________

38 baseballs (6 games)
6.33 average per game

4/11/09 @ Miller Park

After finishing Easter meal (day early) at my in-laws, I raced over to Miller Park. 
The Brewers were opening the gates two hours early for the 605pm game.

I entered the stadium at exactly 407 pm and proceeded to head to the lower level (100 level) right field bleachers.  The Brewers were actually practicing their hitting today.  Woohoo!

As soon as I grabbed my perch in the right field lower level bleachers, Brewers RF COREY HART fielded a baseball near the warning track.  I yelled out, “Corey Hart, baseball please!”  Without hesitation, he flipped it to my waiting glove for BASEBALL #1.  That was easy…and quick, too.

The same occurred about 3 minutes later with Brewers pitcher SETH MCCLUNG.  I simply asked for the baseball and whaddya know??  BASEBALL #2.  There was a young man standing in the front row not far from me.  He had a glove on and looked like he needed some help, so, I gave it to him (and he was a Cubs fan!).  See, I can be nice to Cubs fans.

The debut of something was about to take place.

After the Brewers portion of BP was concluded, I started moseying around a bit.  Upon further investigation, I noticed a single baseball lying harmlessly in the Brewers bullpen. 
Although a bit nervous, I pulled out the necessary equipment and proceeded to use the glove trick to haul in BASEBALL #3!!  Under the expert tutelage of one, ZACK HAMPLE, I now had another trick up my sleeve. 

I did ask Zack for his permission before counting the baseballs toward the statistics in our ballhawk league.  It worked so good and so fast, I still can’t believe it!

The picture below shows where the baseball was lying…
 
4_11_09 Cubs vs Brewers 012.jpgIt was my first glove trick, so, I was too damn nervous to take an actual picture of the ball.  With a little practice, it will come.

After I successfully used the glove trick, I was riding pretty high.  Adding another dimension to the ballhawking arsenal is big. 

Cubs outfielder REED JOHNSON was shagging BP out in left-center field.  I asked him for a baseball and he turned and fired me BASEBALL #4 on the day.  He was the only Cubs player who even acknowledged I was in the ballpark.  Thanks Reed, you’re not so bad.  As for the rest of your teammates, well…nevermind.  Let’s just say I do not like the Chicago Cubs.

Batting Practice (ever notice how I always capitalize it?) was winding down so I took a stroll back over to right field.  I peered in the visitor’s bullpen and saw another little prize yet to be claimed.  I was feeling like a cowboy, so, I pulled the tools out a second time and successfully reeled that one in, as well for BASEBALL # 5.

Here’s a picture where that little fella was situated…
4_11_09 Cubs vs Brewers 010.jpgOkay, so it was my second glove trick…I was still too damn nervous to take a picture. 
                                            With practice comes perfection.

After BP, I wandered around the stadium and made some new friends. 
The picture below was taken from the furthest seat from home plate…
4_11_09 Cubs vs Brewers 002.jpg                                       SECTION 440 ROW 16 SEAT 18
The seats are called Bernie’s Terrace.  Everything in this area looked brand new because few people sit here.  This ticket should come with complimentary barf bags and oxygen masks.

Here’s a picture of Bernie Brewer’s hangout…
4_11_09 Cubs vs Brewers 003.jpgI’ve had small children approach me and ask, “is Bernie Brewer a kitty?”  Cute, indeed. 
But, that just shows how lame our mascot is.  Sorry, Brewers fans…it’s lame.

If you ever meet me in person, ask me the Bernie Brewer story.  It’s funny.

Here’s the ladder Bernie climbs to get to his little dugout…
4_11_09 Cubs vs Brewers 004.jpgHere’s a look down from Bernie’s hangout…
4_11_09 Cubs vs Brewers 005.jpg          Be careful, Bernie!!  Wouldn’t want to see you get replaced by a cooler mascot.

Finals for the day…
4_11_09 Cubs vs Brewers 013.jpg                &nbs
p;                                        5 baseballs
                              (4 are shown-1 was given to a smaller Cubs fan. 
                                                        A Cubs fan???
                                          I know, I know…I’m getting soft.

2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 5 total balls 4/11/09

3 toss-ups

2 device

ATTENDANCE:  43,768

2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS

4/7/09   = 5   baseballs
4/8/09   = 10 baseballs
4/9/09   = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3   baseballs
4/11/09 = 5   baseballs

___________________

33 baseballs (5 games)
6.6 average per game

4/10/09 @ Miller Park (Home Opener)

I was back home on familiar turf.  I had arrived home from Toronto in the wee hours of the morning on Friday and grabbed a couple hours sleep.  It was now time to prepare for our home opener.  An obnoxious, beer spilling, cussing, Scrub fan riddled, sewer hole sellout we call Opening Day.  It’s always this way every year, but, this time we were opening our home schedule against the hated rivals to the south.  It pains me to even mention them by proper name.  Many people come just for the party.  That’s fine-just don’t get in my way.

By the time I carved my way through the traffic jam and grabbed a parking spot, I was running a bit behind.  The gates to the stadium were to open at 105 pm for the 305pm game.  I usually never pay for parking, but this was opening day…I had to park in the lot. 

I sprinted all the way from the back general parking lot to the stadium (approx. 1 mile).  After I had my ticket scanned, I bolted to the bleacher area.

Here’s what the crowd looked like filing in…
4_11_09 Cubs vs Brewers 001.jpgIn 2008. the Brewers had something like 47 sellouts with an average attendance of around 38,000.  When the Cubs come to town, things get messier. 

The Brewers were not even hitting (they must all be accomplished hitters in no need of practice).  The Cubs were out stretching.  Okay.  I ran all the way from the back lot to watch 20 minutes of muscle stretching.  Great.  The exercise was good.

The Cubs finally made themselves worthwhile as the bats began to swing.  After unsuccessfully trying to get a toss-up ball during pitcher’s warm-ups, I headed over to right field.  Fukudome, Lee and Bradley were hitting.

I made it over to the loge bleachers (200 level) in right field just in time for KOSUKE FUKUDOME to jack one in my direction.  I ran to my left through an entire section.  I was in the 3rd row.  I never took my eye off the ball.  I made the catch on the fly leaning over one of the aisle railings for BASEBALL #1.  My first catch on the fly this season.  A guy standing in the front row looked at me and said, “okay, okay.”  As if to say, ‘Boy, if I want a baseball, I’ll have to step up my game with him around.’ 

Damn right.

I had spent three days in Toronto and snagged 25 baseballs and not one of them had been on the fly.  I couldn’t recall the last time I had gone anywhere without snagging at least one on the fly during a series.  It was nice to get that one out of the way.  As much as I despise Miller Park’s ballhawking situation, it was kinda nice to be back home.

The next group to hit was Ramirez, Soriano, Theriot and Fontenot.

I re-positioned myself down to the field level (100 level) for Soriano.  If you’re ever snagging at a Cubs game, position yourself in deep centerfield off-set to the right field side.  Soriano takes BP balls in that direction.  I was in perfect position to snag an ALFONSO SORIANO BP ball on the fly for BASEBALL #2.  I leaned out over the railing and made a clean catch with not much competition.
Here’s a look at the 15 foot drop over the railing where I snagged the Soriano BP homer…
4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 007.jpg                                             TRACK…WALL…GONE!!
                                           It pays to do your homework.

The last Cubs group took their turns in the cage.  I figured lower level bleachers would be the place to be since the group was a bit on the light-side, hitting-wise.

Cubs catcher KOYIE HILL was  pulling everything down the right field line so, I inched toward the foul pole.  He finally hit one that had some air under it.  I ran to my left and made the grab on the fly for BASEBALL #3

After BP ended, a group of guys approached me and asked me if I was the guy who made “the catch” at that Spring Training game in Arizona.  I told them that I was.  Since they had seen me snag 3 on the fly at various spots in the stadium that day, they asked me how I know where to be.  I told them I do my homework.

It then occurred to me that I had snagged a baseball on the fly in 3 of the 4 bleacher sections of Miller Park.  I couldn’t recall the last time I had accomplished that.

Some pics…
4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 006.jpg    My view of the field.  Nothing in front of me except green grass and game home run balls.

4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 008.jpg

                            My view to the right looking into centerfield.

4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 009.jpg                     My view to the left looking into right field and the visitor’s bullpen.

The CITGO gas pump located in right-center field…
If you’re ever at a Brewers game, stop by the gas pump and say “hello.”  Chances are good that I will be at the game.  Just look for the yellow shirt.

Here’s a picture of a great Brewers fan…
4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 012.jpgI call him “Big Joe.”  Joe has season seats directly next to mine.  Joe’s a dedicated fan and he also serves as my personal security :)

In the 3rd inning, Brewers RF Corey Hart jacked one that was coming to my section.  I ran over to my left, camped underneath it…OH NO!!  I had run out of room.  My back was against this gigantic stupid railing that separates my seats from a big dumb gimmicky section behind us that the Brewers call “Toyota Tundra Territory.”  It’s just another promotional area of the stadium that puts us one step closer to looking like a minor league stadium. 
Just my opinion.

Here’s a picture of where the Corey Hart game home run landed…
4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 013.jpg                  X marks the spot.  It went about 10-15 feet over my head…so close!

In the 9th inning, the Brewers were down 3-2.  So, I snuck down to the Cubs dugout for a last out ball or an ump ball.  Whaddya know, the Brewers scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th to win the game.  The crowd went nuts, the Cubs players left dejected and the umps left the field not even able to hear themselves.  They certainly couldn’t hear me yelling for their attention. 

There would be no more baseballs retrieved by this ballhawk on this day.

Our walk to the parking lots…
4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 021.jpgMiller Park is not a good stadium for ballhawking…trust me.  With it’s crammed layout, high attendance and gimmicky promotional areas, moving around to snag baseballs is very difficult.

My lovely wife, April, freezing her rear end off walking back to my truck…
4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 030.jpg                                      As we walk in the shadows of Miller Park.

Check out this tailgating destruction…
4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY 026.jpg                                       Imagine having to clean that mess up!?!

Total baseballs for Brewers Opening Day 2009…
4_10_09 Cubs vs Brewers OPENING DAY.jpg Three (3)…of course, I would have liked more, but, at least they were all snagged on the fly.



2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 3 total balls 4/10/09

3 balls hit (all snagged on fly)

ATTENDANCE:  45,455

2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS

4/7/09   = 5   baseballs
4/8/09   = 10 baseballs
4/9/09   = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3   baseballs

___________________

28 baseballs (4 games)
7.0 average per game




4/9/09 @ Rogers Centre

It was getaway day for my Dad and I.  The last day of our road trip.  Three days went quick. 
I’m having too much fun to leave now. 

The 1st game I attended on April 7th netted me a total of 5 baseballs.
The 2nd game April 8th – 10 baseballs including a game home run.

What will the 3rd day bring?

After I finished blogging the previous day’s activities, my Dad and I headed out to the stadium.  The gates were opening at 11am for the 1237pm game.

On the walk from our downtown hotel to the stadium, I gave ZACK HAMPLE a call to see if there would be Batting Practice.  Since, Zack had a sweet room in The Renaissance Hotel that overlooks the field, I would get a quick answer straight from the man.

Zack set the phone down.  I could hear him yell down to a Detroit Tigers coach below, “are you guys taking BP today?”  That followed by a, “no, okay.”  Zack picked the phone back up and informed me that it must be the Blue Jays taking Batting Practice since the cage and nets were up.

This was a good thing. 

My Dad and I were almost to the stadium when we stopped by one of those street vendors with the hot dog carts.  We ordered up a few Italian sausages and scarfed them down for a little pre-game meal.  If you’re ever in Toronto, you have to eat at least 1 street vendor sausage.  They’re delicious.

The time was now 1050am and we had our spot at the front of the line (they’re were only 10 people present for all lines).

Zack Hample joined us a few minutes later and we were ready to rock and roll.

When the gates to the stadium opened at 11am, we sprinted down into the bleachers and began our day’s work.

I spotted Blue Jays LF/DH man ADAM LIND standing in left field shagging baseballs.  After a few minutes, I had BASEBALL #1 from this hot-hitting young player.

Another baseball rolled out near the bullpen where I was standing.  Blue Jays pitcher BRANDON LEAGUE picked it up.  I politely asked him for the baseball and he underhanded it to me for BASEBALL #2.

The big boppers for the Jays were now taking their turns in the cage (Wells, Rolen and Rios).
So, I headed to the 2nd level of bleachers for some BP home runs. 
Keep in mind, the Tigers had been using those cheap plastic/synthetic International League baseballs all series.  Those just don’t carry like the official MLB balls do.  The Jays were using MLB balls, so, the 2nd level was not such a bad idea.
Up I went.

When I arrived at the 200 level in left field, there were about 5-7 fans total in the entire left field home run sections. 

I played in the middle of the bleacher-area.  Equal distance to run left and to run right for BP home run baseballs (Clears throat-ballhawks, you paying attention?).

It didn’t take long for Jays stud ALEX RIOS to jack one in my direction.  It was over a whole section away.  I took off running to my right as it hit the seats.  It took a high bounce forward and after a little hurdling, I had BASEBALL #3

A minute later, SCOTT ROLEN jerked one up to the 200 level.  This one was hit to my right and a whole section over, too.  I took off after it and claimed that one in the seats for BASEBALL #4.

Here’s a picture of how the Rolen BP homer came to a rest…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 009.jpgThe Jays bleacher seats fold up.  That little gap in the bottom is just small enough to pin a baseball in between the seat back and the actual seat.  Keep this in mind if you’re ever running after one.

Before this group of hitters were finished, Alex Rios hit one about 100 feet to my left.  After a short sprint and a high bounce back toward the field, I had it for BASEBALL #5
A man with his 16 yr old son said to me, “give it to the kid!” 

So, I asked the kid/young man/guy/lad/licensed driver, “you bring a glove?” 
Laughingly, he replied, “no.”
To which, I replied, “I won’t help you if you won’t help yourself.”

There you have it.  Case closed.

After this big-hitting group was finished, I headed back down to the 100 level of bleachers.

When I arrived, a grounds crew member was picking up a baseball off the warning track. 
I yelled out to him, “baseball for a Blue Jays fan, please?”  He looked up at me and laughed.  So, I said, “come on, I even cracked out the old-school Jays jersey just for you!”  Obviously gaining his approval, he looked back up at me, smiled and tossed me BASEBALL #6.

A few of the Jays lefties were now hitting.  So, I headed over to right field for a better chance.
Blue Jays pitcher SCOTT RICHMOND was shagging BP in right field.  Every time a baseball would come his way, people would scream things like,

  1. Give me a ball.
  2. Hey you, toss up a ball.
  3. Gimme a ball.
  4. Hey, how about a ball.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.  Try calling him the name his mother and father gave him.

So, I poked my head over by him the next time a baseball came his way. 
I said, “Scott.  Scott Richmond.  Can I have a baseball please, sir?”  He looked up at me and without hesitation, tossed one to me for BASEBALL #7.
The guys next to me said that I only got it because I knew his name. 
No kidding, really?

Back to left field where Jays pitcher SHAWN CAMP tossed me BASEBALL #8 after a polite request.

Seated directly behind me while I snagged the CAMP toss-up was a nice young man named Alex, attending the ballgame with his grandmother.  These are the things I really love to see.  Family spending valuable time together at a baseball game.  They call it “our great game” for a reason.  So, I turned to him and asked him if he had brought his baseball mitt to the game.  He held up a gently used baseball mitt on his left hand.  Very good. 
I then asked him if he had gotten a baseball yet.  He said he had not.  The SHAWN CAMP toss-up would become his own.   

Here’s a picture of that nice young man holding up his new souvenir…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 001.jpg                                                       Way to go Alex!

Battin
g Practice ended, so, I headed over to the Tigers side of the diamond for a warm-up baseball.

I was in about the 5th row at the conclusion of pre-game warm-ups.  Most of the Detroit Tigers had retreated to the dugout.  Tigers SS ADAM EVERETT remained.  As Adam walked off the field and toward the visitor’s dugout, I stood up and yelled, “Adam Everett, baseball please!”  He smiled and threw me BASEBALL #9.

The game was about to begin.  I headed to meet back up with my Dad where we would view the game. 
Here’s what the walk to my seats looked like…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 005.jpg                Come on people.  15,297 in attendance during an opening week game? 
A bit of advice:  Never take for granted the fact that you have a professional baseball team.

Here was my view of the game from SECTION 141/142…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 002.jpgHere was my view to the left…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 004.jpgHere was my view to the right…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 003.jpg                            That’s my Pops in the orange hat and black sweatshirt.

Here’s a view of the game from behind our seats standing on the concourse…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 006.jpgHere’s a picture of me with my ballhawking game face on…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 007.jpg

At one point in the game, I headed to the right field side of the hitter’s eye because Jays LF/DH Adam Lind was at the plate.
What happened?  Lind hit a home run to my section on the left field side of the hitter’s eye.

It was easier to digest when I found out it would have been pretty hard to put a play on it.  It was hit to the front middle of a crowded row.  The Jays fan who caught it on the fly had a glove on and reached up and toward the field standing in the front row.  I could have gotten close to it probably, but still would have had to run a 1/2 section over and 3 rows down over a few people.  Sometimes, that’s just how ballhawking goes.  You just have to play the odds.  It bites you in the rear once in awhile.

In the 9th inning, I headed down to the Tigers dugout.  After the game ended, I ran down to the front row and asked home plate umpire Chris Guccione for a game ball.  I got his attention but he just shrugged his shoulders and put his hands up.  I’m not sure what had happened.  Either he didn’t want to give me a baseball OR he didn’t have any left in his pouch.  I believe the first to be true.  Usually, a fan that knows the umpires names gets rewarded. 
It wasn’t meant to be this time around.  I’ll try again next time.

Now, the team was leaving the field.  I scanned everyone’s hands and mitts for a ball.  Finally, one of the Tigers bullpen arms (not sure exactly who it was-I think it was ZACK MINER) came walking toward me.  He held up the baseball, I held up my glove and he fired it in my direction.  I caught it for BASEBALL #10.  Right after I gloved it, the unknown Tigers player pointed to my left.  I looked over to my left and an 11-12 yr. old kid was standing next to me.  The player motioned that the baseball was meant for the kid.  I looked down at the ball, it was a game ball.  I looked over at the kid and then back at the unknown Tigers player.  He was still standing there waiting for me to give it to the kid.  I looked over at the kid and gave it to him.  Call it peer pressure.  Whatever, it counts for my stats.

I met back up with Zack Hample.  I told him it was nice to finally meet him.  I told him to have a safe trip back to New York City.  I congratulated him on a fine week of ballhawking and wished him luck. 
We parted ways and my Dad and I headed out of the stadium.

4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 010.jpg                                     Can hardly tell there’s a stadium there.                                       
                                    So long, Toronto.  You were good to me.

Final haul for the day…
                                          10 baseballs (all MLB, I might add) 
                                            8 are shown-2 were given away.

Final baseballs for the series…
4_9_09 Tigers vs Blue Jays 012.jpg                                   25 balls (23 are shown/2 were given away)

2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 10 total balls 4/9/09

3 balls hit

7 balls thrown

ATTENDANCE:  15,297

2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS

4/7/09 = 5   baseballs
4/8/09 = 10 baseballs
4/9/09 = 10 baseballs
___________________

25 baseballs (3 games)
8.333 average per game


4/8/09 @ Rogers Centre

My Dad and I arrived at Rogers Centre at 430pm.  The gates to the stadium wouldn’t open for another hour, so, we decided to go grab a Coke up in the Bar overlooking the field.  The bar is called “Arriba.”  It’s a really cool place to hang out before and after Jays games (I can’t say it’s cool during games because there’s no ballhawking potential).  It really does offer some breath-taking views of the field.

See for yourself…
Toronto 4_8_09 002.jpg                 Looking down on left field as the Blue Jays take Batting Practice.

Toronto 4_8_09 003.jpgHere’s a look down at the black hole they call a bullpen.  As I said in my previous post, there’s nothing I hate more than big bullpens that swallow up game home runs.  Come on!!

Toronto 4_8_09 004.jpg

Here’s a look straight down into the 200 level left field bleacher seats.  From what I’ve seen so far, it takes about a 400+ foot shot to reach this level.

Toronto 4_8_09 005.jpg An eagle-eye view looking down into center field.  You can see the first two rows of the lower (100 level) deck bleacher seats.  Be advised, if you’re not in the first 4 or 5 rows of the lower level, you will be under the overhang and not able to glove anything on the fly.

It was now about 515 pm, so, my Dad and I headed out toward GATE 11 which would send me right to the left field foul pole/left field bleacher area.

We grabbed a spot at the front of the line outside GATE 11 and saved one for Zack Hample.

When I was watching BP through the bar windows, I saw a baseball go into the lower grandstand seats down the left field line.  In about the 5th row, I had reason to believe the baseball was still in the seats.  Would it still be there by the time I get in??

Here’s a picture of where I believed the baseball was still lying…

Toronto 4_8_09 003mod.jpg

                                              I had my fingers crossed.

It was now 530 and the gates were about to open to the stadium.
Toronto 4_8_09 001.jpg                       I retrieved my ticket from my not-so-secret spot anymore. 

I sprinted down to the area to which I had hoped the baseball was still lying.  I ran down the stairs and saw an usher in a bright green coat standing in the area I had hoped the baseball would be.  I was about 20 feet away from him when I saw him bend down and pick a baseball out from under the seats.  NO!!!  I walked up to the young man and asked him if he was going to keep that baseball or give it me.  I told him I was some kind of superfan freak and he reluctantly handed it over to me.  Since a Jays player had hit it, it was an MLB ball and not one of the infamous Detroit Tiger International League baseballs. 
BASEBALL #1

As I’m shaking the young man’s hand for his generosity, I hear someone yell, “heads up!”  I look up and BANG!  A baseball hit the seats about 20 feet from me.  I scramble over to that ball ahead of 2 other guys and claim it for number 2.  Another official MLB ball.
BASEBALL #2

I then headed over to the lower level (100 level) of left field bleacher seats to get a spot above the bullpen.  

A few members of the Blue Jays grounds crew were shagging baseballs in the outfield.  That seriously is my dream/fantasy/whatever the heck you want to call it…to actually shag baseballs on the field.  I would do just about anything for that opportunity-just once.

Here’s the Jays grounds crew member in action…
Toronto 4_8_09 006.jpg                                                     Lucky sonofagun.

The Jays wrapped up their portion of BP.  One of the aforementioned grounds crew members entered the Jays bullpen to do some work on the mound.  I looked down at him and noticed he had a baseball in his hands.  Keep in mind, I’ve asked employees for baseballs in the past with little luck.  Would this time be any different?  Yes.  I didn’t even get the chance to ask before he looked up at me and tossed it up.
BASEBALL #3

Here is that gentleman pictured after his act of kindness…


Toronto 4_8_09 012.jpg

Here’s a picture of baseball #3…

Toronto 4_8_09 028.jpg

As you can see, the baseball has been so abused, you can barely read the writing on it. 
It’s what’s left of an official MLB ball.  The surface leather has a rough feel with no real deep scuffs or scars.  It most likely was used out of a pitching machine. 

The Detroit Tigers now had taken the field for BP.

Marcus Thames and Carlos Guillen were once again taking fly balls out in left field.  After about 5 minutes, I asked Marcus Thames for a baseball.  He tossed it to a fan about 40 feet to my right.  I asked again and he looked up at me and nodded.  Okay, he would throw the next one.  Two minutes later, he did.  International League ball.
BASEBALL #4

Here’s a really bad picture of Marcus Thames taken a min. after he tossed me number 4…
Toronto 4_8_09 010.jpg

Tigers pitcher Juan Rincon was shagging BP in center field when I yelled out to him, “Juan Rincon, Tigers fan, front row.  Baseball please!!”

He fielded the next baseball and without hesitation, fired it into my waiting leather.  Another Int’l League ball.
BASEBALL #5

At this time, I moved over to right field.  I felt I had used up most of my potential for toss-ups in left field.

Tigers pitcher Fernando Rodney was doing some wind sprints along the warning track in right field when I arrived.

Not too long after I arrived in right field, a baseball rolled up to the wall where Rodney was running.  I asked for the baseball and he fired it to me.  Int’l League ball-see a pattern here?
BASEBALL #6

The same situation occurred with Tigers pitcher Bobby Seay.  Thank you very much…!  (Int’l League ball)
BASEBALL #7

Tigers pitcher Eddie Bonine was doing some wind sprints out in right field when a baseball was hit in his direction.  The ball was descending upon him when I yelled, “heads up, heads up!”  Eddie curled up to protect himself and the ball bounced dangerously close to him.  So I said, “ball for a save, Eddie?”  Without hesitation, and feeling it well worth the effort, he tossed it to me for ball number 8 on the day.  (Int’l League ball)
BASEBALL #8

To wrap up a pretty damn good BP, Justin Verlander tossed me number 9 from right center field.  I asked politely and he obliged.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was wearing his #35 jersey, either :)  And yup, you guessed it…a genuine fake leather Int’l League ball.
BASEBALL #9

3 baseballs snagged from the Blue Jays = all Major League baseballs
6 baseballs snagged from the Tigers = all Internatinal League baseballs

So, who’s going to play like a pro?  Who’s going to play like a bunch of minor leaguers?
Cheapskates.  Oh well…beggers can’t be choosers, right?

During pre-game warmups, this was my view zoomed in from a ways away…

 

Toronto 4_8_09 014.jpg

Nothing special, right?  Wrong. 
Take another look at the picture below.

Toronto 4_8_09 016.jpg

That fella standing there in the Detroit Tigers shirt is none other than Zack Hample.  Great positioning, Zack. 
Zack, you really are as advertised.

The game got off to a bang with a home run by Miguel Cabrera and we were rolling.
Here was our view for the game from our front row centerfield bleacher seats…
Toronto 4_8_09 018.jpg  Awesome view from home run territory…maybe I’ll snag a prized souvenir?

Another view…
Toronto 4_8_09 017.jpg

ahhhh!  I love bleacher seats.

The aforementioned ballhawk extraordinaire, Zack Hample, would be seated in the 200 level bleachers directly above us…

Toronto 4_8_09 019.jpgBetween the Zack-man and I, we had left field covered.  If there was a game home run to be had, the odds were pretty damn good it was going to be one of us to snag it.

Speaking of game home runs, Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate in the 5th inning.  He had already gone deep in the 1st inning. 

Crack…!

Here it comes, baby.  I shuffled through the first row to my left toward centerfield.  I was tracking it all the way.  I’m camped underneath it, glove ready.  It was a bomb. 

It ended up hitting off the concrete facade directly above me and bounced back onto the field directly to Jays centerfielder Vernon Wells. 

I yelled to Vernon Wells and held up my glove…within two seconds, the game home run baseball was in my glove.

Here’s where the game home run struck the concrete facade…
Toronto 4_8_09 020.jpg

         The red arrow above shows where the Cabrera game home run struck the facade.

The red arrow below shows a sore loser and another look at where the homer hit…

Toronto 4_8_09 023.jpg This guy went out of his way to show his displeasure.  I know the feeling, pal, just gotta suck it up. 

A face only a mother could love…
Toronto 4_8_09 024.jpg

Alright, enough of that.  Besides, yellow is my color.  That’s like marigold or something.

 

The Miguel Cabrera game home run ball…

Toronto 4_8_09 026.jpg

          THE 48TH GAME HOME RUN BASEBALL OF MY BALLHAWKING CAREER.

I didn’t snag it on the fly, but a game homer is a game homer, no matter how you stack it up.  It’s the only one in the world hit by that player for that exact career # home run.  Baseball is a game of statistics-always was always will be.

Here’s another look at the game homer…

Toronto 4_8_09 029.jpgYou can see the tiny blue mark on the sweetspot where the ball hit the blue concrete facade.

Yet another look.  I know-I’m a geek…

Toronto 4_8_09 030.jpg

     This picture shows the brown mark where the ball bounced down off the warning track.

 

Here’s a picture of my Dad and I doing a little bonding at the ballpark…
Toronto 4_8_09 022.jpg

                             I’m having a blast and I’m spending it with my Pops!

A special thanks to Usher Evan for taking this picture for us.  We talked with Evan throughout the game in Section 141.  Evan is an extremely friendly young man who’s passionate about baseball and dedicated to his position with the Toronto Blue Jays.  If everyone was as friendly as him, the world would be a better place.  Thanks Evan!

Here’s a picture of Evan proudly displaying his hometown blue…
Toronto 4_8_09 025.jpg

Evan was a world of knowledge when it comes to his Jays. 

Some tidbits I learned from this friendly young man…

  • It takes 20 minutes to open and close the roof.
  • It costs $9 in electricity to open and close the roof.
  • The field turf contains 1300 individual square/rectangular sections.

To name a few…very interesting.

 

An all around great day at the park.

Final haul…

Toronto 4_8_09 027.jpg                                10 total baseballs including the game home run.

 

2009 BALLHAWKING STATS

  • 10 total balls 4/8/09

2 balls hit

8 balls thrown

(1 game home run)

ATTENDANCE:  12,145

 

TOTAL BALLS = 15 (2 games)

7.5 balls per game


 

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