This was the second game I’d ever attended at PNC Park. The first was seven years ago, and I don’t remember much. I know I snagged seven balls that day, but I didn’t have a blog or a digital camera back then so it’s almost like it never happened.
Anyway, THIS day started with four crappy hours of sleep and continued with a seven-hour drive from New York City, a confusing check-in at the Holiday Inn Not-Express, and an interminable wait for a taxi to the stadium. By the time I made it there, half a dozen people were already waiting on line at the center field gate so my picture-taking was going to have to wait one more day.
PNC Park opens two hours early for season ticket holders and 90 minutes early for everyone else. Long story short: I was stressed out of my skull but ended up getting inside two hours early. This is what it looked like in the left field bleachers:
I used the glove trick to snag my first ball of the day in straight-away left field as Ian Snell was coming over to retrieve it. He was amused.
My second ball was a home run that I caught on a fly after ranging 30 feet to my left through a long, narrow row between the benches. If my friend Brian (aka “puckcollector” in the comments section) hadn’t told me to bring sunglasses, there’s no way I would’ve caught this ball. The sun was absolutely brutal. I had to look right at it whenever a ball was hit in the air, so I’m officially passing along Brian’s advice to all of you: BRING SUNGLASSES if you’re going to PNC Park. Trust me.
I went back to left field, changed into my Reds shirt and Reds cap, and snagged three more balls during the remaining half of BP (all of which were marked with a “C” on the sweet spot). The first was tossed by a player that I couldn’t identify, the second was a deep home run that I caught on a fly in that open area behind the benches, and the third came via the glove trick near the foul pole. Not bad, not great. It could’ve been worse, but I also could’ve hit double digits by this point if I’d REALLY been on my game.
As for that open area behind the bleachers…here I am standing there:
It was a great spot except for one thing: it was well over 400 feet from home plate so there weren’t too many guys who could reach me.
One problem with the bleachers at PNC is that the wall measures 383 feet from home plate in straight-away left field. That’s kinda far. Another problem stems from the fact that fans in any stadium always cram into the first few rows; the bleachers here only HAVE a few rows–a mere half-dozen in one spot–so despite the low attendance at this game, that whole section still got uncomfortably crowded toward the end of BP:
Batting practice ended at 6pm–about 20 minutes earlier than usual–so I lost a few more snagging opportunities. It just wasn’t a good day, and I was kicking myself for not going to see the Mets in D.C. instead.
Just before the game started, I snuck down to the Reds’ dugout (which is on the first base side at PNC) and got my sixth ball of the day tossed by some guy I’d never heard of. Adam Rosales? I hadn’t even noticed his name when I printed the team’s roster the night before. Seriously, who is he? Who were half the players in the game? I thought I was watching minor league baseball.
I moved to the seats behind the third base dugout and ran down to the front row when Javier Valentin lined out to end the top of the first inning. Doug Mientkiewicz caught the ball and flipped it to me on his way in. Check out the bat imprint on it:
Can you tell what it says? There’s a faint reverse imprint (as if you’re looking at it in a mirror) of the first six letters in the word “Cincinnati.” See it?
crabby usher, which was especially frustrating because the Reds must’ve tossed 20 balls to the people in the front row throughout the game. No joke. Not only did every third-out ball get tossed into the crowd, but 1st base coach Billy Hatcher gave away the infield warm-up ball every inning as well. And there were other balls that got tossed up…foul balls from the ball boy, random balls from the players and coaches. It was crazy. And yeah…I had to stay 10 to 15 rows back and watch helplessly as all of this was taking place.
As for the game itself…whatever. I mean, it WAS Major League Baseball (at least that’s what I was told), but there really wasn’t much to get excited about. Two lousy teams. No superstars. Unenthusiastic fans. Terrible cheese steak (with no cheese). What is there to say? I actually missed Shea and Yankee Stadium. (Did I really just say that?) Edinson Volquez pitched well and earned his 14th win. Mike Lincoln also pitched well and earned his ninth hold. Valentin and Brandon Phillips hit home runs. Rosales and Chris Dickerson picked up their first major league hits. Corey Patterson went 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .194. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals called a great game.
I’m at a loss.
? 7 balls at this game
? 308 balls in 43 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.
? 539 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 130 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
? 3,585 total balls